• Finite element simulations with temperature-dependent properties are carried out.
• Joule heat plays a crucial role in the TEC performance and reliability.
• Strong temperature gradient-induced reliability issue still occurs in the TEC.
• Optimization includes the current, leg geometry, contact layers is presented.
Contact layer resistance
Nowadays electronic devices’ increasing in power density and shrinking in size make it hard to remove the heat.The resulting uneven energy dissipation and high local heat flux density create hotspots that deteriorate the thermal environment. The thermoelectric cooler (TEC) is a promising solid-state heat pump that utilizes the Peltier effect to dissipate the heat and eliminate the hotspots of the electronic devices. In this article, three dimensional numerical simulations have been performed for the optimization design of a compact TEC using finite element method, which take into account the temperature-dependent materials properties, Thomson ef fect, and the contact layer resistances. The optimization includes the input current, leg geometry, and contact layers, with which the TEC achieves the maximum cooling performance and high operation reliability. The results show that the Joule heat generated by the input current inside the module plays a crucial role in the TEC performance and the operation reliability. The strong temperature gradient-induced reliability issue still occurs in the TEC. With the requirements for optimal performance and reliability, the optimized TEC design approach is presented in this study.