Lasted edited by Andrew Munsey, updated on June 14, 2016 at 9:20 pm.
There is a large body of research that has been done to try and optimize air conditioning via the Peltier Effect for practical cooling or heating. When a temperature difference is applied to certain dissimilar metals, an electric current results. This is called the Seebeck effect. The reverse of this -- applying current to effect a temperature difference -- is called the Peltier Effect. A good number of commercial devices are available, but generally speaking, the method is inefficient, and thus geared to niche applications such as computer cooling and small refrigerators. Component improvements in the next few years could change this.
: "The disadvantage of the Peltier Effect refrigerator is that it's not very powerful, nor is it very efficient, but it is very reliable, because it has no moving parts." (http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/homework/s95611.htm)
nanoCoolers - Thin-film wafer-scale Peltier cooler thermoelectrics are solid-state refrigeration devices that are smaller, lower cost, higher performance, more reliable and more power efficient. This could benefit microrefrigeration in the computing, communication and refrigeration markets.
Herman Miller C2 : Peltier Coolers on Your Desk - The C2 acts as an air filter, uses only 1.5 amps of power, yet can allow users to adjust the surrounding temperature up to a 40 degree increase, and an 8 degree decrease. It uses Amerigon's thermoelectric technology used in high end car seats. It can solve the temperature issue, for each individual, in an energy-efficient way. (TreeHugger Jun. 12, 2007)
Yonsei profs’ new radical air conditioner - Two professors have developed an air-conditioner that does not use refrigerants or have an external unit, which can be used as a heater in winter. When electricity flows through the thermo-module, a type of semiconductor, one side cools and the other side heats. (JoongAng Daily May 23, 2007) (Thanks Anthony Saba)
Really Cool Invention Brings Teens Awards - Physics students came up with an environmentally friendly, economical air conditioner. "Space Beast" uses Peltier effect chips instead of Freon. (Salt Lake Tribune July 6, 2005)
: Feedback to Tribune story
:: "While I applaud these students on their enterprise, given the current state of technology, air conditioning with thermoelectric devices is not yet practical. The materials which are now employed are most efficient with smaller cooling jobs. Generally, in any application where a small air conditioner would not be overkill, compressor-based cooling would be the technology of choice. When you start getting down to small cooling boxes like those that plug into an automobile power adapter or a dorm-room refrigeration, Peltier systems can make a lot of sense.
:: "Having said that, it is important to underscore that new thermoelectric materials are under development, both for cooling and power generation. As efficiencies improve, Peltier technology will continue to pick up ground on compressor systems. It will probably be many years before thermoelectric air conditioning can be a practical and affordable alternative. In the near term, however, you will be seeing this technology used in smaller cooling jobs such as beverage cooler/heaters for automobiles and boats (see http://www.thermawaveproducts.com)." (Michael Spry, Sales Engineer for Tellurex July 18, 2005)
http://www.tellurex.com/TellurexPeltierFAQ.pdf - Extensive overview by a commercial interest.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peltier_effect - Encyclopedic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoelectric_cooling - related
http://www.thermoelectric.com/ - Thermoelectric Cooling America Corporation