Electron-beam activated thermal sputtering of thermoelectric materials

Jinsong Wu, Jiaqing He, Mi Kyung Han, Joseph R. Sootsman, Steven Girard, Indika U. Arachchige, Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, Vinayak P. Dravid

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Thermoelectricity and Seebeck effect have long been observed and validated in bulk materials. With the development of advanced tools of materials characterization, here we report the first observation of such an effect in the nanometer scale: in situ directional sputtering of several thermoelectric materials inside electron microscopes. The temperature gradient introduced by the electron beam creates a voltage-drop across the samples, which enhances spontaneous sputtering of specimen ions. The sputtering occurs along a preferential direction determined by the direction of the temperature gradient. A large number of nanoparticles form and accumulate away from the beam location as a result. The sputtering and re-crystallization are found to occur at temperatures far below the melting points of bulk materials. The sputtering occurs even when a liquid nitrogen cooling holder is used to keep the overall temperature at -170°C. This unique phenomenon that occurred in the nanometer scale may provide useful clues to understanding the mechanism of thermoelectric effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044325
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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