Micropelt Opens First Thermoelectric Wafer and Chip Production in Germany

June 28, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

Micropelt announced that it has opened what the company is claiming to be the world’s first automated high volume production site for thermoelectric chip devices has been officially opened by Micropelt at their new location in Halle/Saale, near Leipzig. 400 m² (4,300 sqft) of production space include a customized clean room and the facilities to produce thermoelectric thin films on 6" silicon wafers, which are processed further into tiny micro coolers, sensors and thermogenerators. Unsurpassed power densities of Micropelt’s structured thin films can pump many watts of heat or generate Milliwatts of electrical power on 10 mm² (0.016 in²). Around 15 million Euros are being invested to turn the company’s technical world leadership into a corresponding market success.

"Going to volume production is a big and important milestone for us", said Micropelt’s CEO, Fritz Volkert. "By the same token we lay the groundwork for a major change in the use of energy and resources in private households, public institutions as well as corporations around the world." Volkert refers to the new market of thermogenerator-driven wireless sensors and micro actuators. The company is certain that processes and production equipment will soon be fully monitored by low-cost self-organizing wireless sensor networks (WSN). According to this concept both operations and maintenance can switch to always current measured data, providing for continuously improving process efficiencies and on one hand and maximized asset utilization along with optimized maintenance scheduling and execution, at both minimal cost and risk.

"Today’s wireless sensors save lots of money by avoiding elaborate planning, logistics and labor of cabling. However, life-cycle costs are often dominated by battery maintenance. This drawback has so far been limiting the scope and acceptance of such systems", explained Burkhard Habbe, VP of Business Development at Micropelt. Wladimir Punt, VP Sales and Marketing positions Micropelt’s remedy for the battery maintenance issue: "Our thermogenerators and thermoharvesters often supply more energy than is drawn from battery packs used by WSNs. However, the harvester does not cause any further life cycle costs and beyond that taps into free, otherwise lost thermal energies. This shows how green innovation can be!"

"Turning a new technology into a product and successfully introducing it to the market is a risky venture, despite all expertise and applied diligence", said Hubertus Leonhardt, Micropelt’s Chairman of the Board and Managing Partner of SHS GmbH, a Tübingen, Germany, based venture capital firm which took the role of Micropelt’s lead investor in 2006. "One more time it becomes obvious that venture capital is an important contributor when it comes to exploring unknown economic territories and markets. Out of the multiple potentials we identified before making our decisions, we managed to mature the most promising ones thanks to our close cooperation with Micropelt. This is what we take price in." Further investors joining SHS include MBG, KfW, L-Bank and IBG Fonds managed by Goodvent, as well as local and regional financing partners. With its new site Micropelt taps into a rich infrastructure of basic and applied research organizations, and a growing production industry. A very particular match occurs with Halle’s traditional expertise clusters in thermoelectric once hidden behind the iron curtain.

"Thin film thermoelectrics is just at the beginning of a bright future", concluded Fritz Volkert. "Our production technology is easily applicable to novel materials for higher efficiencies and higher operating temperatures as they become available. We feel well prepared to satisfy our customers today and tomorrow."