High Performance Thermoelectricity in Earth-Abundant Compounds Based on Natural Mineral Tetrahedrites

Authors

  • Xu Lu,

    1. Department of Physics & Astronomy, Michigan State University, 567 Wilson Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
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  • Donald T. Morelli,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Physics & Astronomy, Michigan State University, 567 Wilson Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
    2. Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, Michigan State University, 428 South Shaw Lane, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
    • Department of Physics & Astronomy, Michigan State University, 567 Wilson Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA.
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  • Yi Xia,

    1. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 410 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California 90095 USA
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  • Fei Zhou,

    1. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 410 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California 90095 USA
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  • Vidvuds Ozolins,

    1. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 410 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California 90095 USA
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  • Hang Chi,

    1. Department of Physics, 450 Church Street, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 USA
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  • Xiaoyuan Zhou,

    1. Department of Physics, 450 Church Street, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 USA
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  • Ctirad Uher

    1. Department of Physics, 450 Church Street, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 USA
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Abstract

Thermoelectric materials can convert waste heat into electricity, potentially improving the efficiency of energy usage in both industry and everyday life. Unfortunately, known good thermoelectric materials often are comprised of elements that are in low abundance and require careful doping and complex synthesis procedures. Here, we report dimensionless thermoelectric figure of merit near unity in compounds of the form Cu12-xMxSb4S13, where M is a transition metal such as Zn or Fe, for wide ranges of x. The compounds investigated here span the range of compositions of the natural mineral family of tetrahedrites, the most widespread sulfosalts on Earth, and we further show that the natural mineral itself can be used directly as an inexpensive source thermoelectric material. Thermoelectrics comprised of earth-abundant elements will pave the way to many new, low cost thermoelectric energy generation opportunities.

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