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Ultrahigh power factor and thermoelectric performance in hole-doped single-crystal SnSe

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Science  08 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6269, pp. 141-144
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3749

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Heat conversion gets a power boost

Thermoelectric materials convert waste heat into electricity, but often achieve high conversion efficiencies only at high temperatures. Zhao et al. tackle this problem by introducing small amounts of sodium to the thermoelectric SnSe (see the Perspective by Behnia). This boosts the power factor, allowing the material to generate more energy while maintaining good conversion efficiency. The effect holds across a wide temperature range, which is attractive for developing new applications.

Science, this issue p. 141; see also p. 124

Abstract

Thermoelectric technology, harvesting electric power directly from heat, is a promising environmentally friendly means of energy savings and power generation. The thermoelectric efficiency is determined by the device dimensionless figure of merit ZTdev, and optimizing this efficiency requires maximizing ZT values over a broad temperature range. Here, we report a record high ZTdev ∼1.34, with ZT ranging from 0.7 to 2.0 at 300 to 773 kelvin, realized in hole-doped tin selenide (SnSe) crystals. The exceptional performance arises from the ultrahigh power factor, which comes from a high electrical conductivity and a strongly enhanced Seebeck coefficient enabled by the contribution of multiple electronic valence bands present in SnSe. SnSe is a robust thermoelectric candidate for energy conversion applications in the low and moderate temperature range.

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