Many monumental breakthroughs in p-type PbTe thermoelectrics are driven by optimizing a Pb0.98Na0.02Te matrix. However, recent works found that x > 0.02 in Pb1-xNaxTe further improves the thermoelectric figure of merit, zT, despite being above the expected Na solubility limit. We explain the origins of improved performance from excess Na doping through computation and experiments on Pb1-xNaxTe with 0.01 ≤ x ≤ 0.04. High temperature X-ray diffraction and Hall carrier concentration measurements show enhanced Na solubility at high temperatures when x > 0.02 but no improvement in carrier concentration, indicating that Na is entering the lattice but is electrically compensated by high intrinsic defect concentrations. The higher Na concentration leads to band convergence between the light L and heavy ς valence bands in PbTe, suppressing bipolar conduction and increasing the Seebeck coefficient. This results in a high temperature zT nearing 2 for Pb0.96Na0.04Te, ∼25% higher than traditionally reported values for pristine PbTe-Na. Further, we apply a phase diagram approach to explain the origins of increased solubility from excess Na doping and offer strategies for repeatable synthesis of high zT Na-doped materials. A starting matrix of simple, high performing Pb0.96Na0.04Te synthesized following our guidelines may be superior to Pb0.98Na0.02Te for continued zT optimization in p-type PbTe materials.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry