Rational Design of Advanced Thermoelectric Materials

Authors

  • Jihui Yang,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Box 352120, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2120 USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. J. Y. and H. L. Y. made equal contributions to this work
    • Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Box 352120, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2120 USA.
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  • Hin-Lap Yip,

    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Box 352120, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2120 USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. J. Y. and H. L. Y. made equal contributions to this work
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Alex K.-Y. Jen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Box 352120, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2120 USA
    • Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Box 352120, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2120 USA.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Advanced thermoelectric technologies can drastically improve energy efficiencies of industrial infrastructures, solar cells, automobiles, aircrafts, etc. When a thermoelectric device is used as a solid-state heat pump and/or as a power generator, its efficiency depends pivotally on three fundamental transport properties of materials, namely, the thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, and thermopower. The development of advanced thermoelectric materials is very challenging because these transport properties are interrelated. This paper reviews the physical mechanisms that have led to recent material advances. Progresses in both inorganic and organic materials are summarized. While the majority of the contemporary effort has been focused on lowering the lattice thermal conductivity, the latest development in nanocomposites suggests that properly engineered interfaces are crucial for realizing the energy filtering effect and improving the power factor. We expect that the nanocomposite approach could be the focus of future materials breakthroughs.

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