Employing some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that mismatched alloys are a good match for the future development of high performance thermoelectric devices. Thermoelectrics hold enormous potential for green energy production because of their ability to convert heat into electricity.
Computations performed on "Franklin," a Cray XT4 massively parallel processing system operated by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), showed that the introduction of oxygen impurities into a unique class of semiconductors known as highly mismatched alloys (HMAs) can substantially enhance the thermoelectric performance of these materials without the customary degradation in electric conductivity.
"We are predicting a range of inexpensive, abundant, non-toxic materials in which the band structure can be widely tuned for maximal thermoelectric efficiency," says Junqiao Wu, a physicist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and a professor with UC Berkeley's Department of Materials Science and Engineering who led this research.
"Specifically, we've shown that the hybridization of electronic wave functions of alloy constituents in HMAs makes it possible to enhance thermopower without much reduction of electric conductivity, which is not the case for conventional thermoelectric materials," he says.
Collaborating with Wu on this work were Joo-Hyoung Lee and Jeffrey Grossman, both now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The team published a paper on these results in Physical Review Letters titled, "Enhancing the Thermoelectric Power Factor with Highly Mismatched Isoelectronic Doping."
Seebeck Effect and Green Energy
In 1821, the German-Estonian physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck observed that a temperature difference between two ends of a metal bar created an electrical current in between, with the vol
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DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory