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Effect of chemical treatment on the thermoelectric properties of single walled carbon nanotube networks



Carbon nanotube networks showing superior electric properties, high chemical stability, strong mechanical properties, and flexibility are also known to exhibit thermoelectric effects. However, the experimental thermoelectric figure of merit, ZT, of pristine carbon nanotubes is typically in the range of 10−3–10−2, which is still not attractive for thermal energy conversion applications. In this work, we show possible ways to improve the thermoelectric properties of single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) by means of chemical treatments. In this study, we primarily investigated the effect of chemical treatment on the electrical conductivity and thermoelectric power (TEP) of the entangled network of nanotubes, also, known as “buckypaper”. This chemical treatment increased the electrical conductivity due to p-type doping, thereby, showing a decrease in the TEP given by the Seebeck coefficient, whereas the n-type dopants changed the sign and value of the TEP from about 40 to −40 µV K−1. Neutral polymers, in terms of doping, such as PVDF, PMMA, PVA, PS, and PC, were expected to hinder phonon transport through the nanotube network, increasing the Seebeck coefficient up to ca. 50 µV K−1. Our results reveal the importance of chemical doping determining the sign and the magnitude of the TEP, and role of the polymer matrix in the development of more effective thermoelectric composites based on carbon nanotubes.