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Structure and Thermoelectric Properties of Spark Plasma Sintered Ultrathin PbTe Nanowires

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journal contribution
posted on 11.06.2014, 00:00 by Scott W. Finefrock, Genqiang Zhang, Je-Hyeong Bahk, Haiyu Fang, Haoran Yang, Ali Shakouri, Yue Wu
Solution-synthesized thermoelectric nanostructured materials have the potential to have lower cost and higher performance than materials synthesized by solid-state methods. Herein we present the synthesis of ultrathin PbTe nanowires, which are compressed by spark plasma sintering at various temperatures in the range of 405–500 °C. The resulting discs possess grains with sizes of 5–30 μm as well as grains with sizes on the order of the original 12 nm diameter PbTe nanowires. This micro- and nanostructure leads to a significantly reduced thermal conductivity compared to bulk PbTe. Careful electron transport analysis shows suppressed electrical conductivity due to increased short-range and ionized defect scatterings, while the Seebeck coefficient remains comparable to the bulk value. The PbTe nanowire samples are found unintentionally p-type doped to hole concentrations of 2.16–2.59 × 1018 cm–3. The maximum figure of merit achieved in the unintentionally doped spark plasma sintered PbTe nanowires is 0.33 at 350 K, which is among the highest reported for unintentionally doped PbTe at low temperatures.