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Enhancement of Thermoelectric Figure-of-Merit by a Nanostructure Approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2011

Zhifeng Ren
Affiliation:
renzh@bc.edu, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 02467, United States
Bed Poudel
Affiliation:
poudel@bc.edu, GMZ Energy Inc., Waltham, United States
Yi Ma
Affiliation:
mayi@bc.edu, Boston College, Physics, Chestnut Hill, United States
Yucheng Lan
Affiliation:
lany@bc.edu, Boston College, Physics, Chestnut Hill, United States
Austin Minnich
Affiliation:
aminnich@MIT.EDU, MIT, Cambridge, United States
Andy Muto
Affiliation:
andymuto@MIT.EDU, MIT, Cambridge, United States
Jian Yang
Affiliation:
yangjm@bc.edu, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States
Bo Yu
Affiliation:
yub@bc.edu, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States
Xiao Yan
Affiliation:
yanxa@bc.edu, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States
Dezhi Wang
Affiliation:
wangda@bc.edu, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States
Junming Liu
Affiliation:
liujm@nju.edu.cn, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
Mildred Dresselhaus
Affiliation:
millie@mgm.mit.edu, MIT, Cambridge, United States
Gang Chen
Affiliation:
gchen2@mit.edu, MIT, Cambridge, United States
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Abstract

The dimensionless thermoelectric figure-of-merit (ZT) in bulk materials has remained about 1 for many years. Here we show that a significant ZT improvement can be achieved in nanocrystalline bulk materials. These nanocrystalline bulk materials were made by hot-pressing nanopowders that are ball-milled from either crystalline ingots or elements. Electrical transport measurements, coupled with microstructure studies and modeling, show that the ZT improvement is the result of low thermal conductivity caused by the increased phonon scattering by grain boundaries and defects. More importantly, the nanostructure approach has been demonstrated in a few thermoelectric material systems, proving its generosity. The approach can be easily scaled up to multiple tons. Thermal stability studies have shown that the nanostructures are stable at the application temperature for an extended period of time. It is expected that such enhanced materials will make the existing cooling and power generation systems more efficient.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2009

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References

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