, 87:42
Date: 19 Feb 2014

New promising bulk thermoelectrics: intermetallics, pnictides and chalcogenides

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The need of alternative “green” energy sources has recently renewed the interest in thermoelectric (TE) materials, which can directly convert heat to electricity or, conversely, electric current to cooling. The thermoelectric performance of a material can be estimated by the so-called figure of merit, zT = σ α 2 T/λ (α the Seebeck coefficient, σ α 2 the power factor, σ and λ the electrical and thermal conductivity, respectively), that depends only on the material. In the middle 1990s the “phonon glass and electron crystal” concept was developed, which, together with a better understanding of the parameters that affect zT and the use of new synthesis methods and characterization techniques, has led to the discovery of improved bulk thermoelectric materials that start being implemented in applications. During last decades, special focus has been made on skutterudites, clathrates, half-Heusler alloys, Si1−x Ge x-, Bi2Te3- and PbTe-based materials. However, many other materials, in particular based on intermetallics, pnictides, chalcogenides, oxides, etc. are now emerging as potential advanced bulk thermoelectrics. Herein we discuss the current understanding in this field, with special emphasis on the strategies to reduce the lattice part of the thermal conductivity and maximize the power factor, and review those new potential thermoelectric bulk materials, in particular based on intermetallics, pnictides and chalcogenides. A final chapter, discussing different shaping techniques leading to bulk materials (eventually from nanostructured TE materials), is also included.