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Multiple Roles of Unconventional Heteroatom Dopants in Chalcogenide Thermoelectrics: The Influence of Nb on Transport and Defects in Bi2Te3

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journal contribution
posted on 14.03.2021, 16:29 by Xin Guo, Cunyin Zhang, Zhongyuan Liu, Pan He, Robert Szczęsny, Fangjun Jin, Wanqiang Liu, Duncan H. Gregory
Improvements in the thermoelectric performance of n-type Bi2Te3 materials to more closely match their p-type counterparts are critical to promote the continued development of bismuth telluride thermoelectric devices. Here the unconventional heteroatom dopant, niobium, has been employed as a donor in Bi2Te3. Nb substitutes for Bi in the rhombohedral Bi2Te3 structure and exhibits multiple roles in its modulation of electrical transport and defect-induced phonon scattering. The carrier concentration is significantly increased as electrons are afforded by aliovalent doping and formation of vacancies on the Te sites. In addition, incorporation of Nb in the pseudoternary Bi2–xNbxTe3−δ system increases the effective mass, m*, which is consistent with cases of “conventional” elemental doping in Bi2Te3. Lastly, inclusion of Nb induces both point and extended defects (tellurium vacancies and dislocations, respectively), enhancing phonon scattering and reducing the thermal conductivity. As a result, an optimum zT of 0.94 was achieved in n-type Bi0.92Nb0.08Te3 at 505 K, which is dramatically higher than an equivalent undoped Bi2Te3 sample. This study suggests not only that is Nb an exciting and novel electron dopant for the Bi2Te3 system but also that unconventional dopants might be utilized with similar effects in other chalcogenide thermoelectrics.