Bonding and interfacial reaction between Ni foil and n-type PbTe thermoelectric materials for thermoelectric module applications


Integration of next generation thermoelectric materials in thermoelectric modules requires a novel or alternative approach for mating the brittle semiconducting thermoelectric materials and the ductile metal interconnects. In this study, pure Ni foil was directly bonded to PbTe-based thermoelectric materials using a rapid hot-press. The materials were sintered at 600 and 650 °C, under a pressure of 40 MPa and for various holding times. The resulting interfacial microstructures of the Ni/PbTe joints were investigated. Additionally, the distributions of elements and the phases formed at the Ni/PbTe interface were analyzed. The β2 phase (Nix Te2, 38.8–41 at.% Te) was identified at the Ni/PbTe joints bonded at both 600 and 650 °C. A ternary phase with approximate composition Ni5Pb2Te3 was found at the Ni/PbTe joints bonded at 650 °C. Additionally, the PbTe(Ni) phase was observed along the Ni grain boundaries for both bonding temperatures. Thermodynamics calculation results indicate that only the β2 phase can be formed at the Ni/PbTe interface at 900 K among the binary nickel tellurides.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. 1.

    Snyder GJ, Toberer ES (2008) Complex thermoelectric materials. Nat Mater 7:105–114

    PubMed  Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Yang JH, Caillat T (2006) Thermoelectric materials for space and automotive power generation. MRS Bull 31:224–229

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Zhao DG, Geng HR, Teng XY (2012) Fabrication and reliability evaluation of CoSb3/W-Cu thermoelectric element. J Alloy Compd 517:198–203

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Zhao DG, Geng HR (2012) Microstructure contact studies for skutterudite thermoelectric devices. Int J Appl Ceram Technol 9(4):733–741

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Zhao DG, Li XY, He L, Jiang W, Chen LD (2009) Interfacial evolution behavior and reliability evaluation of CoSb3/Ti/Mo-Cu thermoelectric joints during accelerated thermal aging. J Alloy Compd 477:425–431

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Fan JF, Chen LD, Bai SQ, Shi X (2004) Joining of Mo to CoSb3 by spark plasma sintering by inserting a Ti interlayer. Mater Lett 58:3876–3878

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Fleurial JP, Caillat T, Chi SC (2012) Electrical contacts for skutterudite thermoelectric materials. US patent, US2012/0006376A1

  8. 8.

    Gan YX, Dynys FW (2013) Joining highly conductive and oxidation resistant silver-based electrode materials to silicon for high temperature thermoelectric energy conversions. Mater Chem Phys 138:342–349

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Hikage Y, Masutani S, Sato T, Yoneda S, Ohno Y (2007) Thermal expansion properties of thermoelectric generating device component. In: Proceedings of 26th international conference on thermoelectrics, Jeju, p 331

  10. 10.

    Ni JE, Case ED, Schmidt RD, Wu CI, Hogan TP, Trejo RM, Kirkham MJ, Curzio EL, Kanatzidis MG (2013) The thermal expansion coefficient as a key design parameter for thermoelectric materials and its relationship to processing dependent bloating. J Mater Sci 48:6233–6244. doi:10.1007/s10853-013-7421-7

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Munir ZA, Anselmi-Tamburini U, Ohyanagi M (2006) The effect of electric field and pressure on the synthesis and consolidation of materials: a review of the spark plasma sintering method. J Mater Sci 41:763–777. doi:10.1007/s10853-006-6555-2

    Article  CAS  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Weinstein M, Mlavsky AI (1962) Bonding of lead telluride to pure iron electrodes. Rev Sci Instrum 33:1119–1120

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Yamini SA, Ikeda T, Lalonde A, Pei YZ, Dou SX, Snyder GJ (2013) Rational design of p-type thermoelectric PbTe: temperature dependent sodium solubility. J Mater Chem A 1:8725–8730

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Orihashi M, Noda Y, Chen LD, Kang YS, Moro A, Hirai T (1998) Ni/n-PbTe and Ni/p-Pb0.5Sn0.5Te joining by plasma activated sintering. In: Proceedings of 17th international conference on thermoelectrics, Nagoya, p543

  15. 15.

    Lee SY, Nash P (1990) Ni-Te (Nickel-Tellurium). In: Massalski TB (ed) Binary alloy phase diagrams, vol 3, 2nd edn., ASM InternationalMaterials Park, Ohio, pp p2869–p2872

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Abilov CI, Iskender ZA (1989) Interaction of PbTe with Ni3Te2. Inorg Mater 25:213–215

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Abilov CI (1989) Projection of the liquidus surface of the Pb–Ni–Te system. Russ J Inorg Chem 34:563–566

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Gulay LD, Olekseyuk ID (2004) Crystal structures of the compounds Ni3Te2, Ni3−δTe2 (δ = 0.12) and Ni1.29Te. J Alloy Compd 376:131–138

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Laufek F, Drábek M (2010) The system Ni–Sb-Te at 400°C. Can Miner 48:1069–1079

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Ball RGJ, Dickinson S, Cordfunke EHP, Konings RJM (1992) Thermochemical data acquisition part 2: joint final report. Commission of the European Communities

  21. 21.

    Barin I (1995) Thermochemical data of pure substances, 3rd edn. VCH, Weinheim

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Haiyang Xia would like to thank the Tsinghua Visiting Doctoral Students Foundation and the Opening Project of State Key Laboratory of Advanced Brazing Filler Metals & Technology (Zhengzhou Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering) for their support.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Haiyang Xia.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Xia, H., Drymiotis, F., Chen, CL. et al. Bonding and interfacial reaction between Ni foil and n-type PbTe thermoelectric materials for thermoelectric module applications. J Mater Sci 49, 1716–1723 (2014).

Download citation


  • Diffusion Barrier
  • PbTe
  • Reaction Layer
  • Thermal Contact Resistance
  • PbI2