I understand that thermoelectric coolers are perhaps a quarter as efficient as heat pumps. Why? What is the source of this efficiency limit? What would have to change for thermoelectric coolers to be more efficient?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know a lot about Peltier devices, but I do know that the hot side and the cold side are very close together and, they make intimate physical contact. The rate at which heat is conducted through the device from the hot side back to the cold side is substantial. $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Aug 29 '17 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ You need to conduct electricity, but not conduct heat. Since electrons can carry heat that is a problem. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Aug 29 '17 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ the efficiency limit is set by the traditional figure of merit for thermoelectric devices which is the ratio of the electrical conductivity through the device (which you want to be large, to minimize electrical losses) and the thermal conductivity through the device (which you want to be small, to prevent heat conduction between the hot and cold sides). it is a hard problem to devise a material system which fulfills both requirements simultaneously, as jon points out, which is why thermoelectric junction devices exhibit very low efficiencies. $\endgroup$ – niels nielsen Oct 19 '17 at 19:59

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