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      Superparamagnetic enhancement of thermoelectric performance

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          Abstract

          The ability to control chemical and physical structuring at the nanometre scale is important for developing high-performance thermoelectric materials. Progress in this area has been achieved mainly by enhancing phonon scattering and consequently decreasing the thermal conductivity of the lattice through the design of either interface structures at nanometre or mesoscopic length scales or multiscale hierarchical architectures. A nanostructuring approach that enables electron transport as well as phonon transport to be manipulated could potentially lead to further enhancements in thermoelectric performance. Here we show that by embedding nanoparticles of a soft magnetic material in a thermoelectric matrix we achieve dual control of phonon- and electron-transport properties. The properties of the nanoparticles—in particular, their superparamagnetic behaviour (in which the nanoparticles can be magnetized similarly to a paramagnet under an external magnetic field)—lead to three kinds of thermoelectromagnetic effect: charge transfer from the magnetic inclusions to the matrix; multiple scattering of electrons by superparamagnetic fluctuations; and enhanced phonon scattering as a result of both the magnetic fluctuations and the nanostructures themselves. We show that together these effects can effectively manipulate electron and phonon transport at nanometre and mesoscopic length scales and thereby improve the thermoelectric performance of the resulting nanocomposites.

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          Most cited references 30

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          The work function of the elements and its periodicity

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            Convergence of electronic bands for high performance bulk thermoelectrics.

            Thermoelectric generators, which directly convert heat into electricity, have long been relegated to use in space-based or other niche applications, but are now being actively considered for a variety of practical waste heat recovery systems-such as the conversion of car exhaust heat into electricity. Although these devices can be very reliable and compact, the thermoelectric materials themselves are relatively inefficient: to facilitate widespread application, it will be desirable to identify or develop materials that have an intensive thermoelectric materials figure of merit, zT, above 1.5 (ref. 1). Many different concepts have been used in the search for new materials with high thermoelectric efficiency, such as the use of nanostructuring to reduce phonon thermal conductivity, which has led to the investigation of a variety of complex material systems. In this vein, it is well known that a high valley degeneracy (typically ≤6 for known thermoelectrics) in the electronic bands is conducive to high zT, and this in turn has stimulated attempts to engineer such degeneracy by adopting low-dimensional nanostructures. Here we demonstrate that it is possible to direct the convergence of many valleys in a bulk material by tuning the doping and composition. By this route, we achieve a convergence of at least 12 valleys in doped PbTe(1-x)Se(x) alloys, leading to an extraordinary zT value of 1.8 at about 850 kelvin. Band engineering to converge the valence (or conduction) bands to achieve high valley degeneracy should be a general strategy in the search for and improvement of bulk thermoelectric materials, because it simultaneously leads to a high Seebeck coefficient and high electrical conductivity. ©2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
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              Filled Skutterudite Antimonides: A New Class of Thermoelectric Materials

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                September 13 2017
                September 13 2017
                : 549
                : 7671
                : 247-251
                Article
                10.1038/nature23667
                © 2017
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