3D charge and 2D phonon transports leading to high out-of-plane ZT in n-type SnSe crystals

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Science  18 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6390, pp. 778-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1479

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SnSe doped a different way

Heat can be converted into electricity by thermoelectric materials. Such materials are promising for use in solid-state cooling devices. A challenge for developing efficient thermoelectric materials is to ensure high electrical but low thermal conductivity. Chang et al. found that bromine doping of tin selenide (SnSe) does just this by maintaining low thermal conductivity in the out-of-plane direction of this layered material. The result is a promising n-type thermoelectric material with electrons as the charge carriers—an important step for developing thermoelectric devices from SnSe.

Science, this issue p. 778


Thermoelectric technology enables the harvest of waste heat and its direct conversion into electricity. The conversion efficiency is determined by the materials figure of merit ZT. Here we show a maximum ZT of ~2.8 ± 0.5 at 773 kelvin in n-type tin selenide (SnSe) crystals out of plane. The thermal conductivity in layered SnSe crystals is the lowest in the out-of-plane direction [two-dimensional (2D) phonon transport]. We doped SnSe with bromine to make n-type SnSe crystals with the overlapping interlayer charge density (3D charge transport). A continuous phase transition increases the symmetry and diverges two converged conduction bands. These two factors improve carrier mobility, while preserving a large Seebeck coefficient. Our findings can be applied in 2D layered materials and provide a new strategy to enhance out-of-plane electrical transport properties without degrading thermal properties.

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