PerspectiveMaterials Science

Thermoelectricity in Semiconductor Nanostructures

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Science  06 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5659, pp. 777-778
DOI: 10.1126/science.1093164

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Summary

Thermoelectrics are devices that convert heat to electricity directly, or vice versa. To be technologically useful, thermoelectric materials with high efficiency must be found, along with better tools to understand them. In his Perspective, Majumdar discusses the reports by Hsu et al. and Lyeo et al. that tackle these issues. Hsu et al. have found a new bulk material that exhibits a so-called figure of merit with a value around 2, which is an encouraging step on the road to materials that could compete with conventional thermodynamic devices such as power generators and refrigerators. Lyeo et al. report on a new technique for measuring thermoelectric properties over nanometer scales. The interdisciplinary combination of thermoelectric research with microelectronics and nanotechnology, Majumdar argues, will have a positive impact on both fields.