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.