A team of Clemson University physicists consisting of nanomaterial scientists Apparao Rao and Ramakrishna Podila and thermoelectricians Terry Tritt, Jian He and Pooja Puneet worked synergistically through the newly established Clemson Nanomaterials Center to develop a novel technique of tailoring thermoelectric properties of n-type bismuth telluride for high thermoelectric performance.
Their findings were published in journal Scientific Reports.
The current US energy economy and environment are increasingly threatened by fast-dwindling domestic reserves of fossil fuel coupled with severe environmental impact of fossil fuel combustion. Highly-efficient thermoelectric devices are expected to provide clean energy technology-needs of the hour for US energy sustainability. This research is a step towards optimizing the device performance since it outlines a methodology to overcome a challenge that has "frustrated" thermoelectric researchers to date.
Thermoelectric (TE) devices convert waste heat into electricity through a unique material's property called the Seebeck effect. Basically, the Seebeck effect results in a voltage across the two ends of a TE material, akin to the voltage present across the two ends of a AA battery, when the TE material is properly exposed to the waste heat. In such devices, the efficiency of converting heat into electricity is governed by certain strongly coupled materials properties, viz., electrical resistivity, Seebeck coefficient, and thermal conductivity. A functional TE device consists of multiple legs made up of p-type and n-type materials, just as a diode comprises of a p-n junction.
Bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) is a layered material and can be viewed as a deck of playing cards, wherein each card is only a few atoms thick. Bi2Te3 is currently regarded as the state-of-the-art TE material with high efficiency for converting waste heat into electricity, and is therefore attractive for ener
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