American Chemical Society
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Achieving High Thermoelectric Figure of Merit in Polycrystalline SnSe via Introducing Sn Vacancies

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-12-15, 00:00 authored by Wei Wei, Cheng Chang, Teng Yang, Jizi Liu, Huaichao Tang, Jian Zhang, Yusheng Li, Feng Xu, Zhidong Zhang, Jing-Feng Li, Guodong Tang
Thermoelectric power generation technology has emerged as a clean “heat engine” that can convert heat to electricity. Recently, the discovery of an ultrahigh thermoelectric figure of merit in SnSe crystals has drawn a great deal of attention. In view of their facile processing and scale-up applications, polycrystalline SnSe materials with ZT values comparable to those of the SnSe crystals are greatly desired. Here we achieve a record high ZT value ∼2.1 at 873 K in polycrystalline Sn1–xSe with Sn vacancies. We demonstrate that the carrier concentration increases by artificially introducing Sn vacancies, contributing significantly to the enhancements of electrical conductivity and thermoelectric power factor. The detailed analysis of the data in the light of first-principles calculations results indicates that the increased carrier concentration can be attributed to the Sn-vacancy-induced Fermi level downshift and the interplay between the vacancy states and valence bands. Furthermore, vacancies break translation symmetry and thus enhance phonon scattering, leading to extralow thermal conductivity. Such high ZT value ∼2.1 is achieved by synergistically optimizing both electrical- and thermal-transport properties of polycrystalline SnSe. The vast increase in ZT for polycrystalline SnSe may accelerate practical applications of this material in highly effective solid-state thermoelectric devices.