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Growth of Polycrystalline Indium Phosphide Nanowires on Copper

  • Kate J. Norris (a1) (a2), Junce Zhang (a1) (a2), David M. Fryauf (a1) (a2), Elane Coleman (a3), Gary S. Tompa (a3) and Nobuhiko P. Kobayashi (a1) (a2)...

Abstract

Our nation discards more than 50% of the total input energy as waste heat in various industrial processes such as metal refining, heat engines, and cooling. If we could harness a small fraction of the waste heat through the use of thermoelectric (TE) devices while satisfying the economic demands of cost versus performance, then TE power generation could bring substantial positive impacts to our society in the forms of reduced carbon emissions and additional energy. To increase the unit-less figure of merit, ZT, single-crystal semiconductor nanowires have been extensively studied as a building block for advanced TE devices because of their predicted large reduction in thermal conductivity and large increase in power factor. In contrast, polycrystalline bulk semiconductors also indicate their potential in improving overall efficiency of thermal-to-electric conversion despite their large number of grain boundaries. To further our goal of developing practical and economical TE devices, we designed a material platform that combines nanowires and polycrystalline semiconductors which are integrated on a metallic surface. We will assess the potential of polycrystalline group III-V compound semiconductor nanowires grown on low-cost copper sheets that have ideal electrical/thermal properties for TE devices. We chose indium phosphide (InP) from group III-V compound semiconductors because of its inherent characteristics of having low surface states density in comparison to others, which is expected to be important for polycrystalline nanowires that contain numerous grain boundaries. Using metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) polycrystalline InP nanowires were grown in three-dimensional networks in which electrical charges and heat travel under the influence of their characteristic scattering mechanisms over a distance much longer than the mean length of the constituent nanowires. We studied the growth mechanisms of polycrystalline InP nanowires on copper surfaces by analyzing their chemical, optical, and structural properties in comparison to those of single-crystal InP nanowires formed on single-crystal surfaces. We also assessed the potential of polycrystalline InP nanowires on copper surfaces as a TE material by modeling based on finite-element analysis to obtain physical insights of three-dimensional networks made of polycrystalline InP nanowires. Our discussion will focus on the synthesis of polycrystalline InP nanowires on copper surfaces and structural properties of the nanowires analyzed by transmission electron microscopy that provides insight into possible nucleation mechanisms, growth mechanisms, and the nature of grain boundaries of the nanowires.

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