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Practical electrical contact resistance measurement method for bulk thermoelectric devices

  • Rahul P. Gupta (a1), Robin McCarty (a1), Jim Bierschenk (a1) and Jeff Sharp (a1)


As thermoelectric (TE) element length decreases, the impact of contact resistance on TE device performance grows more significant. In fact, for a TE device containing 100-μm tall Bi2Te3TE elements, the figure of merit ratio (ZTDevice/ZTMaterial) drops from 0.9 to 0.5 as the contact resistivity increases from 5 x 10-07 to 5 x 10-06 Ω-cm2. To understand the effects of contact resistance on bulk TE device performance, a reliable experimental measurement method is needed. There are many popular methods to extract contact resistance such as Transmission Line Measurements (TLM) and Kelvin Cross Bridge Resistor method (KCBR), but they are only well-suited for measuring metal contacts on thin films and do not necessarily translate to measuring contact resistance on bulk thermoelectric materials. The authors present a new measurement technique that precisely measures contact resistance (on the order of 5 x 10-07 Ω-cm2) on bulk thermoelectric materials by processing stacks of bulk, metal-coated TE wafers using TE industry standard processes. One advantage of this technique is that it exploits realistic TE device manufacturing techniques and results in an almost device-like structure, therefore representing a realistic value for electrical contact resistance in a bulk TE device. Contact resistance measurements for metal contacts to n- and p-type Bi2Te3 alloys are presented and an estimate of the accuracy of the measurements is discussed.



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