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Thermoelectric modules are of great interest for power generation applications where temperature gradients of approximately 500K exist, and hot side temperatures near 800K. The fabrication of such modules requires optimization of the material compositions, low contact resistivities, and low thermal loss.
AgPbmSbTe2+m (LAST) and Ag(Pb1-xSnx)m SbTe2+m (LASTT) compounds are among the best known materials appropriate for this temperature range. Various measurement systems have been developed and used to characterize bulk samples in the LAST and LASTT systems within this operating temperature range. From the characterized data, modeling of modules based on these materials and segmented legs using LAST(T) with Bi2Te3 have been used to identify the optimal geometry for the individual legs, and the length of the Bi2Te3 segments. We have segmented LAST(T) with Bi2Te3 and achieved contact resistivities of less than 10 μΩ•cm2.
Here we give a detailed presentation on the procedures used in the fabrication of thermoelectric generators based on LAST, LASTT, and segmented with Bi2Te3 materials. We also present the output data on these generators.
Low electrical contact resistance is essential for the fabrication of high efficiency thermoelectric generators in order to convert heat to electricity. These contacts must be stable to high temperatures and through thermal cycling. A ratio of the contact resistance to the leg resistance below 0.1 is the goal for fabrication of a high efficiency thermoelectric power generation device. Here we present the fabrication procedures and characterization of contacts of metal alloys to Pb-Sb-Ag-Te (LAST) and Pb-Sb-Ag-Sn-Te (LASTT) compounds. Contacts were fabricated and measured for both ingot and hot pressed materials. Stainless steel 316 has shown a low resistance contact to these thermoelectric materials when the proper bonding conditions are used. Different time-temperature-pressure conditions for bonding to n-type and to p-type legs are presented. Contact resistances below 10μΩcm2 have been measured. In addition, break tests have shown bond strengths exceeding the semiconductor fracture strength. One of the considerations used in selecting iron alloys for electrical interconnects is the similarity in the coefficient of thermal expansion to the LAST and LASTT materials which is 18 ppm/°C and relatively temperature insensitive. Contacts to the thermoelectric materials were accomplished by diffusion bonding in a furnace developed in our lab at Michigan State University. The furnace is capable of reaching temperatures of up to 1000°C with a controlled atmosphere of a reducing gas. Fabrication procedures and contact data are presented in this paper.
PbTe-based thermoelectric (TE) materials exhibit promising thermoelectric properties and have potential applications in waste heat recovery from sources such as truck engines and shipboard engines. TE components designed for these applications will be subject to mechanical/thermal loading and vibration as a result from in-service conditions, including mechanical vibration, mechanical and/or thermal cycling, and thermal shock.
In the current study, we present and discuss the mechanical properties of several PbTe-based compositions with different dopants and processing methods, including n-type and p-type specimens fabricated both by casting and by powder processing. Room temperature hardness and Young's modulus are studied by Vickers indentation and nanoindentation while fracture strength is obtained by biaxial flexure testing. Temperature dependent Young's modulus, shear modulus, and Poisson's ratio are studied via resonant ultrasound spectroscopy (RUS).
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