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HQ 957487


CLA-2 R:C:M 957487 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8418.69.00

Dr. Lester H. Vogt, Ph.D.
21205 Country Farm Lane
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

RE: NY 888686 Revoked; Thermoelectric Module, Cooler; Solid- State Heat Pump for Transfer of Heat by Application of Electric Current, Cooling Sources in Portable Refrigerators, Air Conditioners and Precision Instruments; Other Machinery, Plant or Laboratory Equipment for the Treatment of Materials, Subheading 8419.50.00; Principal Purpose, Chapter 84, Note 7; Customs Cooperation Council Classification Opinion 8418.69/1

Dear Dr. Vogt:

In a ruling to you, dated August 24, 1993, NY 888686, the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, held that certain thermoelectric modules were classifiable as machinery, plant or laboratory equipment, whether or not electrically heated, for the treatment of materials by a process involving a change of temperature such as heating or cooling, in subheading 8419.50.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).

Pursuant to section 625(c)(1), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed revocation of NY 888686 was published on August 2, 1995, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 31.


The thermoelectric modules in question, also referred to in submitted literature as thermoelectric coolers and solid state heat pumps, are produced in sizes ranging from 1.5 in. x 1.5 in. to somewhat less than 1.4 in. x 1.4 in. Each module consists of a number of thermoelectric couples connected electrically in series and thermally in parallel. Semiconductors of dissimilar metals form the elements of each individual couple and are soldered to copper connecting strips. Ceramic faceplates electrically insulate these connecting strips from external surfaces. - 2 -

These devices electrically transfer heat from one side of the module to the other by the application of DC current to the junction that separates the semiconductors (a thermodynamic phenomenon called the Peltier effect). However, because of the Peltier effect, these modules are also capable of generating heat depending on which conductor the current is applied to. You state the modules function primarily as light weight cooling devices in portable refrigerators, air conditioners and in a variety of temperature-sensitive electronic instruments. The literature describes applications in which these modules are used to dissipate heat for the purpose of creating a cooling system. We are informed these modules are capable of temperature ranges as low as -100 degrees C.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

8418 Refrigerators, freezers and other refrigerating or freezing equipment, electric or other; heat pumps, other than air conditioning machines of heading 8415; parts thereof:

Other refrigerating or freezing equipment; heat pumps:

8418.69.00 Other...2.3 percent

8419 Machinery, plant or laboratory equipment, whether or not electrically heated, for the treatment of materials by a process involving a change of temperature such as heating...or cooling, other than machinery or plant of a kind used for domestic purposes...:

8419.50 Heat exchange units:

8419.50.10 Brazed aluminum plate-fin heat exchangers...4.2 percent

8419.50.50 Other...3.4 percent


Whether the thermoelectric modules in issue are refrigerating or freezing equipment.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

For purposes of goods classifiable in chapter 84 a machine which is used for more than one purpose is to be treated as if its principal purpose were its sole purpose. Chapter 84, Note 7, HTSUS. Principal use in this context is the use which exceeds any other single use of the good.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized system. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

Relevant heading 84.19 ENs, at p. 1173, state that the machinery and plant of that heading are designed to submit materials (solid, liquid or gaseous) to a heating or cooling process in order to cause a simple change of temperature, or to cause a transformation of the materials resulting principally from the temperature change. The thermoelectric modules or coolers in issue do not treat materials as described in this note. In addition, these notes specifically exclude refrigerating machinery and heat pumps which are referred to heading 84.18. The issue, then, is whether the modules in issue are described in heading 8418.

Heading 84.18 ENs state, at p. 1169, "[t]he refrigerators and refrigerating equipment of this heading are in the main machines or assemblies of apparatus for the production, in a continuous cycle of operations, of low temperatures (in the region of 0 degrees C or less) at the active cooling element, by the absorption of the latent heat of evaporation of liquefied gases (e.g., ammonia, halogenated hydrocarbons), of volatile liquids or, in the case of certain marine types, of water." (Emphasis added). As written, these notes are not exclusive but merely describe examples of machines and apparatus that are considered refrigerators and refrigerating equipment for purposes of heading 84.18.

Refrigeration is the cooling of a space or substance below the environmental temperature. It involves thermodynamic processes whereby heat is withdrawn from a cold body and expelled to a hot body. The reverse Peltier effect is among the many methods by which the cooling in a refrigetaion cycle can be produced. Refrigeration, Refrigeration Cycle, McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 6th. ed. (1987), 257, 261.

The thermoelectric modules in issue create low temperatures in the region of 0 degrees C or less. The evidence of record indicates this is their principal purpose. Accordingly, these modules are provided for in heading 8418. We note that the Compendium of Classification Opinions lists decision 8418.69/1, in which the Customs Cooperation Council held that thermo- electric batteries which by description and function are identical to the modules in issue here, were refrigerating or freezing equipment of heading 8418.


The thermoelectric modules, as described, are provided for in heading 8418. They are classifiable in subheading 8418.69.00, HTSUS.


NY 888686, dated August 24, 1993, is revoked. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin. Publication of rulings or decisions pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1) does not constitute a change of practice or position in accordance with section 177.10(c)(1), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 177.10(c)(1)).


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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