Effect of the Processing Route on the Thermoelectric Performance of Nanostructured CuPbSbTe

Abstract : The quaternary AgPbSbTe compound (abbreviated as LAST) is a prominent thermoelectric material with good performance. Endotaxially embedded nanoscale Ag-rich precipitates contribute significantly to decreased lattice thermal conductivity (κ) in LAST alloys. In this work, Ag in LAST alloys was completely replaced by the more economically available Cu. Herein, we conscientiously investigated the different routes of synthesizing CuPbSbTe after vacuum-sealed-tube melt processing, including (i) slow cooling of the melt, (ii) quenching and annealing, and consolidation by (iii) spark plasma sintering (SPS) and also (iv) by the state-of-the-art flash SPS. Irrespective of the method of synthesis, the electrical (σ) and thermal (κ) conductivities of the CuPbSbTe samples were akin to those of LAST alloys. Both the flash-SPSed and slow-cooled CuPbSbTe samples with nanoscale dislocations and Cu-rich nanoprecipitates exhibited an ultralow κ ∼ 0.58 W/m·K at 723 K, comparable with that of its Ag counterpart, regardless of the differences in the size of the precipitates, type of precipitate-matrix interfaces, and other nanoscopic architectures. The sample processed by flash SPS manifested higher figure of merit ( zT ∼ 0.9 at 723 K) because of better optimization and a trade-off between the transport properties by decreasing the carrier concentration and κ without degrading the carrier mobility. In spite of their comparable σ and κ, zT of the Cu samples is low compared to that of the Ag samples because of their contrasting thermopower values. First-principles calculations attribute this variation in the Seebeck coefficient to dwindling of the energy gap (from 0.1 to 0.02 eV) between the valence and conduction bands in MPbSbTe (M = Cu or Ag) when Cu replaces Ag.
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Bhuvanesh Srinivasan, Bruno Fontaine, Francesco Gucci, Vincent Dorcet, Theo Graves Saunders, et al.. Effect of the Processing Route on the Thermoelectric Performance of Nanostructured CuPbSbTe. Inorganic Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2018, 57 (20), pp.12976-12986. ⟨10.1021/acs.inorgchem.8b02248⟩. ⟨hal-01903311⟩

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