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Direct ink writing of three-dimensional thermoelectric microarchitectures

Abstract

Microthermoelectric modules can be used as energy harvesters, active coolers and thermal sensors in integrated systems. However, manufacturing such modules with traditional microfabrication processes is costly and produces only two-dimensional thermoelectric films, which limit the formation of high-temperature gradients and thus the amount of power generated. Here we show that microscale three-dimensional thermoelectric architectures can be fabricated through the direct writing of particle-based thermoelectric inks. Using size control and surface oxidation, the characteristics of (Bi,Sb)2(Te,Se)3-based particle inks are engineered to create colloidal inks with high viscoelasticity and without organic binders, and the inks are directly written into complex architectures using a 3D printing process. The resulting structures exhibit high thermoelectric figures of merit of 1.0 (p type) and 0.5 (n type), which are comparable to those of bulk ingots. Microthermoelectric generators made from three-dimensionally written vertical filaments exhibit large temperature gradients and a power density of 479.0 μW cm–2.

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Fig. 1: Direct 3D writing of TE inks.
Fig. 2: Rheological properties of super-viscoelastic TE ink.
Fig. 3: TE properties of the 3D-printed samples.
Fig. 4: Fabrication and power performance of the μTEG.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Samsung Research Funding Center of Samsung Electronics under project no. SRFC-MA1801–05. J.S.S. acknowledges the Nano-Material Technology Development Program (NRF-2018M3A7B8060697) and the Creative Materials Discovery Program (NRF-2020M3D1A1110502) through the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, Republic of Korea.

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F.K., S.E.Y., H.J., H.G.C. and J.S.S. designed the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the paper. F.K., S.E.Y., S.C., J.L., J.S.S. and K.T.K. carried out the synthesis and basic characterization of the materials. S.E.Y., H.J. and H.G.C. performed the characterization of rheological properties. F.K., S.E.Y., G.K. and S.A. performed the characterization of thermoelectric properties. F.K. and S.E.Y. carried out the fabrication and measurement of TEGs. S.K. and C.C. performed the synthesis of hydrogels. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Han Gi Chae or Jae Sung Son.

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Peer review information Nature Electronics thanks Yanzhong Pei, Kyu Huong Lee and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–21, Tables 1 and 2, discussion and references.

Supplementary Video 1

Printing of a TE filament.

Supplementary Video 2

Printing of a 3D lattice.

Supplementary Video 3

Printing of p- and n-type TE filaments on a Si/SiO2 substrate.

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Kim, F., Yang, S.E., Ju, H. et al. Direct ink writing of three-dimensional thermoelectric microarchitectures. Nat Electron 4, 579–587 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-021-00622-9

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