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Low electrical contact resistance is essential for the fabrication of high efficiency thermoelectric generators. These contacts must be stable to high temperatures and through thermal cycling. Here we present the fabrication procedure and characterization of several contacts to Pb-Sb-Ag-Te (LAST) compounds. Contact materials investigated include tungsten, antimony, tin, nickel, and bismuth antimony based solder. The contacts were typically deposited by an electron beam evaporation method after careful preparation of the sample surface. The resistances were measured by using the transmission line model, and ohmic behavior was verified through current vs. voltage measurements. The best contact resistivities of less than 20 µΩ·cm2 have been measured for annealed antimony to n-type LAST samples. We present these procedures for fabricating low resistance contacts and the use of these procedures towards the fabrication of high efficiency thermoelectric generator modules.
Lead-Antimony-Silver-Tellurium (L-A-S-T) materials, synthesized at Michigan State University, show promising thermoelectric properties at high temperatures for use in power generation applications. Recent scaled-up quantities of L-A-S-T show a ZT=1.4 at 700 K approaching the figure of merit for samples made in small quantities. These materials are of great interest for power generation applications with hot side temperatures in the range of 600-800 K. Developing these materials into working devices requires minimization of the thermal and electrical parasitic contact resistances, so various fabrication methods are under investigation. To examine each method, a new measurement system has been developed to characterize these devices under various load and temperature gradients. An introduction to the system will be presented, as well as results for devices made of the L-A-S-T materials.
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