Strained endotaxial nanostructures with high thermoelectric figure of merit

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Thermoelectric materials can directly generate electrical power from waste heat but the challenge is in designing efficient, stable and inexpensive systems. Nanostructuring in bulk materials dramatically reduces the thermal conductivity but simultaneously increases the charge carrier scattering, which has a detrimental effect on the carrier mobility. We have experimentally achieved concurrent phonon blocking and charge transmitting via the endotaxial placement of nanocrystals in a thermoelectric material host. Endotaxially arranged SrTe nanocrystals at concentrations as low as 2% were incorporated in a PbTe matrix doped with Na2Te. This effectively inhibits the heat flow in the system but does not affect the hole mobility, allowing a large power factor to be achieved. The crystallographic alignment of SrTe and PbTe lattices decouples phonon and electron transport and this allows the system to reach a thermoelectric figure of merit of 1.7 at ~800 K.

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Figure 1: Electrical transport properties of PbTe-SrTe.
Figure 2: Thermal transport properties of PbTe–SrTe.
Figure 3: TEM and strain analysis of PbTe–SrTe.
Figure 4: ZT of PbTe–SrTe.


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This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research (grant N00014-08-1-0613). Transmission electron microscopy work was performed in the (EPIC) (NIFTI) (Keck-II) facility of NUANCE Center at Northwestern University. NUANCE Center is supported by NSF-NSEC, NSF-MRSEC, Keck Foundation, the State of Illinois, and Northwestern University. The work at the University of Michigan is supported as part of the Revolutionary Materials for Solid State Energy Conversion, an Energy frontier Research Center funded by the U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0001054.

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K.B., Q.Z. and M.G.K. prepared the samples, designed and carried out thermoelectric experiments. K.B. and M.G.K. analysed the electrical and thermal transport data. J.H. and V.P.D. carried out the TEM experiment and analysed the TEM data. G.W. and C.U. carried out the Hall measurements. K.B., J.H., V.P.D. and M.G.K. wrote the manuscript. All authors have reviewed, discussed and approved the results and conclusions of this article.

Correspondence to Mercouri G. Kanatzidis.

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Biswas, K., He, J., Zhang, Q. et al. Strained endotaxial nanostructures with high thermoelectric figure of merit. Nature Chem 3, 160–166 (2011) doi:10.1038/nchem.955

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