The growing adoption of electric and luxury vehicles is expected to drive the growth of the thermoelectric modules market. A luxury or ultra-luxury vehicle is usually characterized by its high comfort and safety levels, advanced driving performance, stylish design, and exclusive experience. The distinctive features of luxury and ultra-luxury vehicles, including high performance, aesthetics, exclusivity, and brand heritage, are expected to be further appreciated by affluent customers in the coming years. Thermoelectric modules are prominently used in luxury and ultra-luxury vehicles for automotive seat cooling/heating, cup holders, glove boxes, automotive night vision, and waste heat recovery.
In addition, the escalating levels of greenhouse gas emissions and resulting environmental concerns have prompted governments and environmental organizations worldwide to tighten emission norms. As a result, there has been an increase in demand for sustainable and eco-friendly transportation options, such as electric vehicles (EVs). Additionally, governments worldwide offer incentives and subsidies to EV owners, further bolstering the demand for these vehicles.
Global sales of electric cars increased by around 60% in 2022, surpassing 10 million for the first time. According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), one in every seven passenger cars bought globally in 2022 was an EV. Thermoelectric modules are being used in electric vehicles as it is suitable for heating batteries in electric cars to overcome the poor performance of batteries in cold weather conditions. Thus, the rising demand for EVs is anticipated to drive the demand for thermoelectric modules.
Electronic devices such as compact power electronics, LEDs, sensors, and central processing units (CPU) require thermal control systems to operate safely or enhance performance. Moreover, the trend towards compactness, miniaturization, and encapsulation of high-power electronic chips results in a limitation of the heat dissipation surface, making thermal management more difficult. As a result, the cooling system becomes critical to prevent overheating, which reduces the performance of electronic devices and can even result in critical failures. Traditional cooling technologies, including air cooling, liquid cooling, and heat pipes, have been effective in managing the high heat flux generated by electronic products. However, these methods require external energy to operate, which can result in increased energy consumption and higher operating costs. Therefore, thermoelectric cooling is emerging as a more effective and efficient solution for managing the thermal needs of high-performance electronic devices.
Thermoelectric (TE) cooling technology offers several advantages over conventional vapor-compression cooling systems. TE cooling devices are more compact, requiring less space and lower maintenance. Additionally, they produce lower vibration and noise levels, making them suitable for use in noise-sensitive environments. Furthermore, TE cooling technology provides more precise control over temperature, allowing for more accurate cooling of electronic components. These advantages have encouraged the development of new applications in the market. Several players operating in the market are taking strategic initiatives to launch thermoelectric cooling modules. For instance, in July 2021, Laird Thermal Systems, Inc. (U.S.) launched its OptoTEC OTX/HTX Series of miniature thermoelectric coolers for high-temperature optoelectronics. Similarly, in 2020, TEC Microsystems introduced the new 1MA10 Series of thermoelectric coolers with aluminum plates instead of ceramics.
However, the high manufacturing costs of thermoelectric modules compared to the traditional heating/cooling systems is the biggest restraining factor for the growth of the thermoelectric modules market. Although the materials for high-temperature thermoelectric modules are widely available, the high costs of system components, including heat exchangers and ceramic plates, are the main barrier to producing these modules economically. Thus, the cost of high-temperature generation modules is generally too high for commercial applications. However, despite this cost limitation, their use may still be possible in specific niches less sensitive to price restrictions. Apart from these restraining factors, most TE modules are assembled manually, requiring specific welding materials and tools to withstand the high assembly and operating temperatures.
Companies operating in the global thermoelectric modules market face several challenges, including ensuring the reliability and durability of thermoelectric modules and managing the design complexities associated with these modules. The reliability of thermoelectric devices tends to be difficult to define since failure rates are highly dependent upon the particular application. In steady-state cooling applications, where DC power is consistently and uniformly applied to the module, thermoelectric module reliability is generally quite high, with Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) often exceeding 200,000 hours—a widely accepted industry standard. However, MTBF can be significantly worse in thermal cycling applications, particularly if TE modules are cycled to a high temperature. In addition, thermoelectric modules exhibit relatively high mechanical strength in a compression mode but comparatively low shear strength. Despite these challenges, stakeholders in the industry are taking initiatives to simplify the design complexities of thermoelectric modules and overcome such obstacles.
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