Power generation from nanostructured PbTe-based thermoelectrics: Comprehensive development from materials to modules

Xiaokai Hu, Priyanka Jood, Michihiro Ohta, Masaru Kunii, Kazuo Nagase, Hirotaka Nishiate, Mercouri G Kanatzidis, Atsushi Yamamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

127 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, we demonstrate the use of high performance nanostructured PbTe-based materials in high conversion efficiency thermoelectric modules. We fabricated the samples of PbTe-2% MgTe doped with 4% Na and PbTe doped with 0.2% PbI2 with high thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) and sintered them with Co-Fe diffusion barriers for use as p- and n-type thermoelectric legs, respectively. Transmission electron microscopy of the PbTe legs reveals two shapes of nanostructures, disk-like and spherical. The reduction in lattice thermal conductivity through nanostructuring gives a ZT of ∼1.8 at 810 K for p-type PbTe and ∼1.4 at 750 K for n-type PbTe. Nanostructured PbTe-based module and segmented-leg module using Bi2Te3 and nanostructured PbTe were fabricated and tested with hot-side temperatures up to 873 K in a vacuum. The maximum conversion efficiency of ∼8.8% for a temperature difference (ΔT) of 570 K and ∼11% for a ΔT of 590 K have been demonstrated in the nanostructured PbTe-based module and segmented Bi2Te3/nanostructured PbTe module, respectively. Three-dimensional finite-element simulations predict that the maximum conversion efficiency of the nanostructured PbTe-based module and segmented Bi2Te3/nanostructured PbTe module reaches 12.2% for a ΔT of 570 K and 15.6% for a ΔT of 590 K respectively, which could be achieved if the electrical and thermal contact between the nanostructured PbTe legs and Cu interconnecting electrodes is further improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-529
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering

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