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From what I understand, the working agent inside a peltier cooler is Bismuth-Telluride. I've read a toxicity data-sheet regarding Bismuth-Telluride here.

If I were to use a peltier cooler inside a sealed cooling system, for example a thermoelectric cooler, will any groceries stored in it be "infused" with Bismuth-Telluride?

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Yes there are little cooling boxes, for camping, for example, where one of the walls (partially) is made of a sheet of a food-safe-metal, back-to-back to one side of a Peltier element as a cooling device. This works fine, for example if attached to the car's battery. Less efficient (by rate of heat transfer) may be an separation of the Peltier element viz. the inner of the cooling box by glass or food-safe plastic.
Of course, a complete immersion of the Peltier device into a cooler or cooling system won't work, as necessarily one of the flat sides of the element is going to become cool, but the other going to be warm.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your reply. The cooler I have has a 12 volt fan situated in the lid of the cooler with the cool side of a peltier element next to it to circulate the air inside of the cooler (it looks like the heat created on the other side is dispersed with a heatsink) – Doesn't that establish a direct contact between the food and the Bismuth-Telluride? How much Bismuth-Telluride is actually given off from a bare-metals peltier element? $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Jul 10 '13 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ I do think, by accident your description inversed "cool side" and "warm side". Because as you rightly state, the "warm side" serves as a "heat sink", the "cool side" of the Peltier element really is used to cool the inner of the cool box. Already in light of this perspective, it makes sense to separate the "warm side" from the goods to be cooled; the presence of the fan (on the "warm side") even increases this need. Yet if there such a separation, then I assume the likelihood of BiTe-particles, suspended in air, to be spilled into the inner of the coolbox by the fan, to be little. $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Jul 11 '13 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ If you visit wikipedia's entry regarding Thermoelectric cooling the right-hand figure "Peltier element schematic" places the single elements in stacks, and these on top of (I quote:) "ceramic plates". Provided i) absence of cracks and gaps in these plates, and 2) a tight connection of these plates with the surrounding wall/frame of the cooling box, I assume this decreases well the possibility of BiTe-particles to enter the inner of the cool box. $\endgroup$ – Buttonwood Jul 11 '13 at 12:14

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