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      The panoscopic approach to high performance thermoelectrics

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          Complex thermoelectric materials.

          Thermoelectric materials, which can generate electricity from waste heat or be used as solid-state Peltier coolers, could play an important role in a global sustainable energy solution. Such a development is contingent on identifying materials with higher thermoelectric efficiency than available at present, which is a challenge owing to the conflicting combination of material traits that are required. Nevertheless, because of modern synthesis and characterization techniques, particularly for nanoscale materials, a new era of complex thermoelectric materials is approaching. We review recent advances in the field, highlighting the strategies used to improve the thermopower and reduce the thermal conductivity.
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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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              New and old concepts in thermoelectric materials.

              Herein we cover the key concepts in the field of thermoelectric materials research, present the current understanding, and show the latest developments. Current research is aimed at increasing the thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) by maximizing the power factor and/or minimizing the thermal conductivity. Attempts at maximizing the power factor include the development of new materials, optimization of existing materials by doping, and the exploration of nanoscale materials. The minimization of the thermal conductivity can come through solid-solution alloying, use of materials with intrinsically low thermal conductivity, and nanostructuring. Herein we describe the most promising bulk materials with emphasis on results from the last decade. Single-phase bulk materials are discussed in terms of chemistry, crystal structure, physical properties, and optimization of thermoelectric performance. The new opportunities for enhanced performance bulk nanostructured composite materials are examined and a look into the not so distant future is attempted.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                EESNBY
                Energy Environ. Sci.
                Energy Environ. Sci.
                Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
                1754-5692
                1754-5706
                2014
                2014
                : 7
                : 1
                : 251-268
                Article
                10.1039/C3EE43099E
                © 2014
                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://xlink.rsc.org/?DOI=C3EE43099E

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