The possibility of increasing the performance of thermionic cooling devices by relaxing lateral momentum conservation is examined. Upper limits for the ballistic emission current are established. It is then shown that for most cases, nonconserved lateral momentum model produces a current that exceeds this upper limit. For the case of heterojunctions with a much heavier effective mass in the barrier and with a low barrier height, however, relaxing lateral momentum may increase the current. These results can be simply understood from the general principle that the current is limited by the location, well or barrier, with the smallest number of conducting channels. They also show that within a thermionic emission framework, relaxing lateral momentum conservation does not increase the upper limit performance in most cases, and when it does, the increase is modest. More generally, however, especially when the connection to the carrier reservoir is poor and performance is well below the upper limit, relaxing lateral momentum conservation could prove beneficial.
Date of this Version
J. Appl. Phys. 107, 054502 (2010)