Researchers performed experiments at both of ORNL's neutron facilities -- the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor -- to learn why the material lead telluride, which has a similar molecular structure to common table salt, has very low thermal conductivity, or heat loss -- a property that makes lead telluride a compelling thermoelectric material.
"The microscopic origin of the low thermal conductivity is not well understood. Once we do understand it better we can design materials that perform better at converting heat to electricity," said Olivier Delaire, a researcher and Clifford Shull Fellow in ORNL's Neutron Sciences Directorate.
Delaire's research, reported in Nature Materials, shows that an unusual coupling of microscopic vibrational modes, called phonons, is responsible for the disruption of the dynamics that transport the thermal energy in lead telluride.
In typical crystalline materials, which have a lattice-like atomic structure, the conduction of heat is enhanced by the propagation of phonons along the lattice. The atoms conduct heat by vibrating in a chain, similar to vibrations propagating along a spring.
Delaire's team determined through analysis at the SNS that lead telluride, although having the same crystal lattice as rock salt, exhibits a strong coupling of phonons, which results in a disruption of the lattice effect and cancels the ability to conduct heat.
"The resolution of the SNS's Cold Neutron Chopper Spectrometer, along with the high flux, have been quite important to making these time of flight measurements," Delaire said.
By controlling thermal conductivity in thermoelectrics, less energy is dispersed and more heat can be directed to power generation. Today, thermoelectric materials are used to power the deep-space probes that explore the outer planets and solar system. Cruising beyond the range of solar collectors, the crafts' reactor thermoelectric generators use heat from decaying radioisotopes to generate power.
New, advanced thermoelectric materials could be used to develop more earthly applications, such as vehicle exhaust systems that convert exhaust heat into electricity, reducing the need for alternators. New thermoelectric materials could also help concentrate solar energy for power generation and recover waste heat for industrial processes.
Delaire's team performed additional neutron measurements with HFIR's triple-axis spectrometer. Data analysis has been facilitated through collaboration with ORNL's Materials Theory group. Samples were synthesized and characterized in ORNL's Correlated Electrons Materials group.
The work was funded by DOE's Office of Science as part of the Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC) Energy Research Frontier Center.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.
Bill Cabage | EurekAlert!
New biomaterial could replace plastic laminates, greatly reduce pollution
21.09.2017 | Penn State
Stopping problem ice -- by cracking it
21.09.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.09.2017 | Life Sciences
21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine