Thermoelectric generators can convert heat directly into usable electric power but suffer from low efficiencies and high costs, which have hindered wide-scale applications. Accordingly, an important goal in the field of thermoelectricity is to develop new high performance materials that are composed of more earth-abundant elements. The best systems for midtemperature power generation rely on heavily doped PbTe, but the Te in these materials is scarce in the Earth's crust. PbSe is emerging as a less expensive alternative to PbTe, although it displays inferior performance due to a considerably smaller power factor S2σ, where S is the Seebeck coefficient and σ is electrical conductivity. Here, we present a new p-type PbSe system, Pb0.98Na0.02Se-x%HgSe, which yields a very high power factor of ∼20 μW·cm-1·K-2 at 963 K when x = 2, a 15% improvement over the best performing PbSe-x%MSe materials. The enhancement is attributed to a combination of high carrier mobility and the early onset of band convergence in the Hg-alloyed samples (∼550 K), which results in a significant increase in the Seebeck coefficient. Interestingly, we find that the Hg2+ cations sit at an off-centered position within the PbSe lattice, and we dub the displaced Hg atoms "discordant". DFT calculations indicate that this feature plays a role in lowering thermal conductivity, and we believe that this insight may inspire new design criteria for engineering high performance thermoelectric materials. The high power factor combined with a decrease in thermal conductivity gives a high figure of merit ZT of 1.7 at 970 K, the highest value reported for p-type PbSe to date.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry