High thermoelectric cooling performance of n-type Mg3Bi2-based materials

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Science  02 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6452, pp. 495-498
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax7792

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Thrifty thermoelectric cooling

Currently available thermoelectric devices for cooling rely on expensive bismuth telluride. Mao et al. systematically developed a far less expensive n-type magnesium-bismuth–based material with good thermoelectric properties. They built a device that could generate a temperature difference of up to 90 kelvin when coupled with a commercially available p-type material. Such materials should provide an excellent basis for cost-effective thermoelectric cooling technology.

Science, this issue p. 495


Thermoelectric materials have a large Peltier effect, making them attractive for solid-state cooling applications. Bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3)–based alloys have remained the state-of-the-art room-temperature materials for many decades. However, cost partially limited wider use of thermoelectric cooling devices because of the large amounts of expensive tellurium required. We report n-type magnesium bismuthide (Mg3Bi2)–based materials with a peak figure of merit (ZT) of ~0.9 at 350 kelvin, which is comparable to the commercial bismuth telluride selenide (Bi2Te3–xSex) but much cheaper. A cooling device made of our material and p-type bismuth antimony telluride (Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3) has produced a large temperature difference of ~91 kelvin at the hot-side temperature of 350 kelvin. n-type Mg3Bi2-based materials are promising for thermoelectric cooling applications.

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