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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.
A study of the impact of surface preparation and post-deposition annealing on contact resistivity for sputtered Ni and Co contacts to thin film Bi2Te3 is presented. The contact resistance values obtained using the transfer length method (TLM) for Ni is compared to Co as a potential contact metal to Bi2Te3. Post-deposition annealing at 100°C on samples that were sputter cleaned reduces the contact resistivity to < 10-7 Ω-cm2 for both Ni and Co contacts to Bi2Te3. Co provided similar contact resistance values as Ni, but had better adhesion and less diffusion into the thermoelectric (TE) material, making it a suitable candidate for contact metallization to Bi2Te3 based devices.
We investigated the impact of doping group III elements (Al, Ga, In and Tl) on the electronic structure of PbTe by first principles calculations. The impurity-induced defect level changes with respect to the charge state of the impurity. We find that among the four elements, Tl is the best candidate for the enhancement of thermoelectric efficiency, consistent with the experimental data.
We investigate the band offsets and stability for Ni/Bi2Te3 and Co/Bi2Te3 interfaces by first principles calculations. It is found that the surface termination strongly affects the band offsets. Ni and Co are found to form Ohmic contacts to Bi2Te3. The interface formation energies for Co/Bi2Te3 interfaces are much lower than those of Ni/Bi2Te3 interfaces. Our calculations are consistent with the experimental data.
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