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Concept: Thermoelectric effect


Thermoelectric devices that are flexible and optically transparent hold unique promise for future electronics. However, development of invisible thermoelectric elements is hindered by the lack of p-type transparent thermoelectric materials. Here we present the superior room-temperature thermoelectric performance of p-type transparent copper iodide (CuI) thin films. Large Seebeck coefficients and power factors of the obtained CuI thin films are analysed based on a single-band model. The low-thermal conductivity of the CuI films is attributed to a combined effect of the heavy element iodine and strong phonon scattering. Accordingly, we achieve a large thermoelectric figure of merit of ZT=0.21 at 300 K for the CuI films, which is three orders of magnitude higher compared with state-of-the-art p-type transparent materials. A transparent and flexible CuI-based thermoelectric element is demonstrated. Our findings open a path for multifunctional technologies combing transparent electronics, flexible electronics and thermoelectricity.

Concepts: Electricity, Optical fiber, Iodine, Thermoelectric effect, Thermoelectricity, Thermoelectric cooling


The potential of thermoelectric materials to generate electricity from the waste heat can play a key role in achieving a global sustainable energy future. In order to proceed in this direction, it is essential to have thermoelectric materials that are environmentally friendly and exhibit high figure of merit, ZT. Oxide thermoelectric materials are considered ideal for such applications. High thermoelectric performance has been reported in single crystals of Ca3Co4O9. However, for large scale applications single crystals are not suitable and it is essential to develop high-performance polycrystalline thermoelectric materials. In polycrystalline form, Ca3Co4O9 is known to exhibit much weaker thermoelectric response than in single crystal form. Here, we report the observation of enhanced thermoelectric response in polycrystalline Ca3Co4O9 on doping Tb ions in the material. Polycrystalline Ca3-xTbxCo4O9 (x = 0.0-0.7) samples were prepared by a solid-state reaction technique. Samples were thoroughly characterized using several state of the art techniques including XRD, TEM, SEM and XPS. Temperature dependent Seebeck coefficient, electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity measurements were performed. A record ZT of 0.74 at 800 K was observed for Tb doped Ca3Co4O9 which is the highest value observed till date in any polycrystalline sample of this system.

Concepts: Crystal, Heat, Silicon, Solid, Materials science, Electrical conductivity, Thermoelectric effect, Crystallite


In competitive thermoelectric devices for energy conversion and generation, high-efficiency materials of both n-type and p-type are required. For this, Bi2Te3-based alloys have the best thermoelectric properties in room temperature applications. Partial replacement of tellurium by selenium is expected to introduce new donor states in the band gap, which would alter electrical conductivity and thermopower. We report on the preparation of n-type Bi2(Te1-xSex)3 solid solutions by a straightforward arc-melting technique, yielding nanostructured polycrystalline pellets. X-ray and neutron powder diffraction was used to assess Se inclusion, also indicating that the interactions between quintuple layers constituting this material are weakened upon Se doping, while the covalency of intralayer bonds is augmented. Moreover, scanning electron microscopy shows large surfaces perpendicular to the c crystallographic axis assembled as stacked sheets. Grain boundaries related to this 2D nanostructuration affect the thermal conductivity reducing it below 0.8 Wm(-1)K(-1) at room temperature. Furthermore, Se doping increases the absolute Seebeck coefficient up to -140 μV K(-1) at 400 K, which is also beneficial for improved thermoelectric efficiency.

Concepts: Electron, Crystallography, Semiconductor, Solid, Bismuth telluride, Electrical conductivity, Selenium, Thermoelectric effect


Heavily boron-doped silicon layers and boron etch-stop techniques have been widely used in the fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). This paper provides an introduction to the fabrication process of nanoscale silicon thermoelectric devices. Low-dimensional structures such as silicon nanowire (SiNW) have been considered as a promising alternative for thermoelectric applications in order to achieve a higher thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) than bulk silicon. Here, heavily boron-doped silicon layers and boron etch-stop processes for the fabrication of suspended SiNWs will be discussed in detail, including boron diffusion, electron beam lithography, inductively coupled plasma (ICP) etching and tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) etch-stop processes. A 7 μm long nanowire structure with a height of 280 nm and a width of 55 nm was achieved, indicating that the proposed technique is useful for nanoscale fabrication. Furthermore, a SiNW thermoelectric device has also been demonstrated, and its performance shows an obvious reduction in thermal conductivity.

Concepts: Nanotechnology, Microelectromechanical systems, Photolithography, Thermoelectric effect, Electron beam lithography, Tetramethylammonium hydroxide, Thermoelectric cooling, Dry etching


Temperature is one of the most important environmental stimuli to record and amplify. While traditional thermoelectric materials are attractive for temperature/heat flow sensing applications, their sensitivity is limited by their low Seebeck coefficient (∼100 μV K(-1)). Here we take advantage of the large ionic thermoelectric Seebeck coefficient found in polymer electrolytes (∼10,000 μV K(-1)) to introduce the concept of ionic thermoelectric gating a low-voltage organic transistor. The temperature sensing amplification of such ionic thermoelectric-gated devices is thousands of times superior to that of a single thermoelectric leg in traditional thermopiles. This suggests that ionic thermoelectric sensors offer a way to go beyond the limitations of traditional thermopiles and pyroelectric detectors. These findings pave the way for new infrared-gated electronic circuits with potential applications in photonics, thermography and electronic-skins.

Concepts: Energy, Thermodynamics, Transistor, Diode, Electronics, Thermoelectric effect, Organic semiconductor, Amplifier


Transverse thermoelectric devices produce electric fields perpendicular to an incident heat flux. Classically, this process is driven by the Nernst effect in bulk solids, wherein a magnetic field generates a Lorentz force on thermally excited electrons. The spin Seebeck effect also produces magnetization-dependent transverse electric fields. It is traditionally observed in thin metallic films deposited on electrically insulating ferromagnets, but the films' high resistance limits thermoelectric conversion efficiency. Combining Nernst and spin Seebeck effect in bulk materials would enable devices with simultaneously large transverse thermopower and low electrical resistance. Here we demonstrate experimentally that this is possible in composites of conducting ferromagnets (Ni or MnBi) containing metallic nanoparticles with strong spin-orbit interactions (Pt or Au). These materials display positive shifts in transverse thermopower attributable to inverse spin Hall electric fields in the nanoparticles. This more than doubles the power output of the Ni-Pt materials, establishing proof of principle that the spin Seebeck effect persists in bulk nanocomposites.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Electricity, Electric current, Thermodynamics, Thermoelectric effect, Faraday's law of induction


Optical irradiation accompanied by spontaneous anti-Stokes emission can lead to cooling of matter, in a phenomenon known as laser cooling, or optical refrigeration, which was proposed by Pringsheim in 1929. In gaseous matter, an extremely low temperature can be obtained in diluted atomic gases by Doppler cooling, and laser cooling of ultradense gas has been demonstrated by collisional redistribution of radiation. In solid-state materials, laser cooling is achieved by the annihilation of phonons, which are quanta of lattice vibrations, during anti-Stokes luminescence. Since the first experimental demonstration in glasses doped with rare-earth metals, considerable progress has been made, particularly in ytterbium-doped glasses or crystals: recently a record was set of cooling to about 110 kelvin from the ambient temperature, surpassing the thermoelectric Peltier cooler. It would be interesting to realize laser cooling in semiconductors, in which excitonic resonances dominate, rather than in systems doped with rare-earth metals, where atomic resonances dominate. However, so far no net cooling in semiconductors has been achieved despite much experimental and theoretical work, mainly on group-III-V gallium arsenide quantum wells. Here we report a net cooling by about 40 kelvin in a semiconductor using group-II-VI cadmium sulphide nanoribbons, or nanobelts, starting from 290 kelvin. We use a pump laser with a wavelength of 514 nanometres, and obtain an estimated cooling efficiency of about 1.3 per cent and an estimated cooling power of 180 microwatts. At 100 kelvin, 532-nm pumping leads to a net cooling of about 15 kelvin with a cooling efficiency of about 2.0 per cent. We attribute the net laser cooling in cadmium sulphide nanobelts to strong coupling between excitons and longitudinal optical phonons (LOPs), which allows the resonant annihilation of multiple LOPs in luminescence up-conversion processes, high external quantum efficiency and negligible background absorption. Our findings suggest that, alternatively, group-II-VI semiconductors with strong exciton-LOP coupling could be harnessed to achieve laser cooling and open the way to optical refrigeration based on semiconductors.

Concepts: Photon, Laser, Atom, Thermodynamics, Gallium arsenide, Gas, Thermoelectric effect, Cooling technology


Recently SnSe, a layered chalcogenide material, has attracted a great deal of attention for its excellent p-type thermoelectric property showing a remarkable ZT value of 2.6 at 923 K. For thermoelectric device applications, it is necessary to have n-type materials with comparable ZT value. Here, we report that n-type SnSe single crystals were successfully synthesized by substituting Bi at Sn sites. In addition, it was found that the carrier concentration increases with Bi content, which has a great influence on the thermoelectric properties of n-type SnSe single crystals. Indeed, we achieved the maximum ZT value of 2.2 along b axis at 733 K in the most highly doped n-type SnSe with a carrier density of -2.1 × 10(19) cm(-3) at 773 K.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Materials science, Material, Property, Thermoelectric effect, P-type semiconductor, The Carrier, Carrier Corporation


This paper reports the optical and thermal response of a single-walled carbon nanotube-copper sulfide nanoparticle (SWNT-CuS NP) hybrid nanomaterial and its application as a thermoelectric generator. The hybrid nanomaterial was synthesized using oleylamine molecules as the linker molecules between SWNTs and CuS NPs. Measurements found that the hybrid nanomaterial has significantly increased light absorption (up to 80%) compared to the pure SWNT. Measurements also found that the hybrid nanomaterial thin-film devices exhibit a clear optical and thermal switching effect, which can be further enhanced up to 10 ×  by asymmetric illumination of light and thermal radiation on the thin-film devices instead of symmetric illumination. A simple prototype thermoelectric generator enabled by the hybrid nanomaterials is demonstrated, indicating a new route for achieving thermoelectricity.

Concepts: Photon, Electromagnetic radiation, Sun, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Carbon nanotube, Thermoelectric effect


Spin caloritronics studies the interplay between charge-, heat- and spin-currents, which are initiated by temperature gradients in magnetic nanostructures. A plethora of new phenomena has been discovered that promises, e.g., to make wasted heat in electronic devices useable or to provide new read-out mechanisms for information. However, only few materials have been studied so far with Seebeck voltages of only some microvolt, which hampers applications. Here, we demonstrate that half-metallic Heusler compounds are hot candidates for enhancing spin-dependent thermoelectric effects. This becomes evident when considering the asymmetry of the spin-split density of electronic states around the Fermi level that determines the spin-dependent thermoelectric transport in magnetic tunnel junctions. We identify Co2FeAl and Co2FeSi Heusler compounds as ideal due to their energy gaps in the minority density of states, and demonstrate devices with substantially larger Seebeck voltages and tunnel magneto-Seebeck effect ratios than the commonly used Co-Fe-B-based junctions.

Concepts: Electricity, Energy, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Thermoelectric effect, Ideal gas