A Stirling cycle micro-refrigeration system composed of arrays of silicon MEMS cooling elements has been designed and evaluated thermodynamically. The cooling elements are each 5 mm-long, 2.25 mm-wide, have a thickness of 300 μm, and are fabricated in a stacked array on a silicon wafer. A 0.5 mm-long regenerator is placed between the compression (hot side) and expansion (cold side) diaphragms. The diaphragms are 2.25 mm circles driven electrostatically. Helium is the working fluid, pressurized at 2 bar and sealed in the system. Under operating conditions, the hot and cold diaphragms oscillate sinusoidally 90° out of phase such that heat is extracted to the expansion space and released from the compression space. The bulk silicon substrate on which the device is grown is etched with “zipping” shaped chambers under the diaphragms. The silicon enables efficient heat transfer between the gas and heat source/sink as well as reduces the dead volume of the system, thus enhancing the cooling capacity. In addition, the “zipping” shaped substrates reduce the voltage required to actuate the diaphragms. An array of vertical silicon pillars in the regenerator serves as a thermal capacitor transferring heat to and from the working gas during a cycle. In operation, the push-pull motion of the diaphragm makes a 300 μm stroke and actuates at a frequency of 2 kHz. Parametric study of the design shows the effects of phase lag, swept volume ratio between the hot space and cold space, and dead volume ratio on cooling capacity. At TH = 313.15 K and TC = 288.15 K and assuming a perfect regenerator, the thermodynamic optimization analysis gives a heat extraction rate of 0.22 W per element and cooling capacity of 30 W/cm2 for the stacked system. Evaluation of the stacked system shows that the COP will reach 6.3 if the expansion work from the cold side is recovered electrostatically and used to drive the hot side diaphragm.

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