Improved Bulk Materials with Thermoelectric Figure-of-Merit Greater than 1: Tl10–xSnxTe6 and Tl10–xPbxTe6

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Abstract

Noting the steadily worsening problem of depleted fossil fuel sources, alternate energy sources have become increasingly important; these include thermoelectrics, which may use waste heat to generate electricity. To be economically viable, the thermoelectric figure-of-merit, zT, which is related to the energy conversion efficiency, needs to be in excess of unity (zT > 1). Tl4SnTe3 and Tl4PbTe3 were reported to attain a thermoelectric figure-of-merit zT max = 0.74 and 0.71, respectively, at 673 K. Here, the thermoelectric properties of both materials are presented as a function of x in Tl10–x Sn x Te6 and Tl10–x Pb x Te6, with x varying between 1.9 and 2.05, culminating in zT values in excess of 1.2. These materials are charge balanced when x = 2, according to (Tl+)8(Sn2+)2(Te2−)6 and (Tl+)8(Pb2+)2(Te2−)6 (or: (Tl+)4Pb2+(Te2−)3). Increasing x causes an increase in valence electrons, and thus a decrease in the dominating p-type charge carriers. Larger x values occur with a smaller electrical conductivity and a larger Seebeck coefficient. In each case, the lattice thermal conductivity remains under 0.5 W m−1 K−1, resulting in several samples attaining the desired zT max > 1. The highest values thus far are exhibited by Tl8.05Sn1.95Te6 with zT = 1.26 and Tl8.10Pb1.90Te6 with zT = 1.46 around 685 K.

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