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The technology is an innovative approach to the fabrication of multistage thermoelectric micro cryogenic coolers, and demonstrates their versatility through applications in IR detection. By creating p-type leg and n-type leg portion of two cooling stages, the p-n junctions are thermally and electrically coupled, and therefore, at least a portion of a current through one stage during operation is coupled to the other. The p-n junction element also forms a unitary thermoelectric structure that spans more than one stage of the cooler so that all the stages of a multistage thermoelectric cryogenic cooler can be fabricated together.