Heat Transfer and Thermoelectric Voltage at Metallic Point Contacts

[+] Author and Article Information
P. E. Phelan

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Honolulu, HI 96822

O. Nakabeppu, K. Ito, K. Hijikata

Tokyo Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, Tokyo 152, Japan

T. Ohmori

Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., Yokohama 235 Japan

K. Torikoshi

Daikin Industrial Co., Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Sakaishi 591 Japan

J. Heat Transfer 115(3), 757-762 (Aug 01, 1993) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2910748 History: Received April 01, 1992; Revised January 01, 1993; Online May 23, 2008


Metallic point contacts have been extensively studied from the viewpoint of their interesting, and often nonlinear, electrical properties. Their thermal characteristics, however, have largely been ignored, even though they show great potential as microscale temperature sensors. It has been previously demonstrated that when a temperature drop exists across a point contact consisting of two identical metals, a thermoelectric voltage can be generated, provided the mean contact radius is comparable in size to the electron mean free path. In the present experimental study, a point contact is formed by pressing a sharply etched Ag whisker against either an Ag or a Cu flat plate. In addition to confirming the previous results, the feasibility of using such a point contact is demonstrated by calibrating the voltage output against the nondimensionalized plate temperature. Furthermore, the thermoelectric voltage at an Ag–Cu point contact is also presented, showing that a point contact made from dissimiliar metals is even more promising than one made from identical materials. Finally, the point-contact thermal resistance is shown to depend nonlinearly on the electrical resistance, or contact area, and on the temperature drop.

Copyright © 1993 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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