Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Nanotech milling produces dramatic increase in thermoelectric performance of bulk semiconductor

Researchers from Boston College, MIT, Clemson University and the University of Virginia have used nanotechnology to achieve a 60-90 percent increase in the thermoelectric figure of merit of p-type half-Heusler, a common bulk semiconductor compound, the team reported in the journal Nano Letters.

The dramatic increase in the figure of merit, used to measure a material’s relative thermoelectric performance, could pave the way for a new generation of products – from car exhaust systems and power plants to solar power technology – that that runs cleaner, according to co-author Yan Xiao, a researcher in the Department of Physics at Boston College.

The team registered improvement in half-Heusler, which has been under study for its thermal stability, mechanical sturdiness, non-toxicity and low cost. However, the application of half-Heusler has been limited because of its poor thermoelectric performance: it previously registered a peak figure of merit of approximately 0.5 at 700 oC for bulk ingots.

Xiao, working with BC Professor of Physics Zhifeng Ren and MIT’s Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering Gang Chen, have increased the figure of merit value of p-type half-Heusler to 0.8 at 700 oC. Moreover, the groups’ material preparation methods proved to save time and expense compared with conventional methods.

“This method is low cost and can be scaled for mass production,” Ren said. “This represents an exciting opportunity to improve the performance of thermoelectric materials in a cost-effective manner.”

The researchers obtained their results by first forming alloyed ingots using arc melting technique and then creating nanoscale powders by ball milling the ingots and finally obtaining dense bulk by hot pressing. Transport property measurements together with microstructure studies on the nanostructured samples, in comparison with that of bulk ingots, showed that the thermoelectric performance improves largely because of low thermal conductivity produced by enhanced phonon scattering at grain boundaries and defects in the material. The material was also found to have a high Seebeck coefficient, a measure of thermoelectric power.

Researchers in the BC and MIT labs are still trying to prevent grain growth during press, which accounts for the still large thermal conductivity of half-Heusler.

“Even lower thermal conductivity and improved thermoelectric performance can be expected when average grain sizes are made smaller than 100 nm,” said Ren, who was joined on the team by fellow Boston College researchers Giri Joshi, Weishu Liu, Yucheng Lan and Hui Wang, MIT’s Sangyeop Lee, Virginia’s Rogers Professor of Physics Joe Poons and J.W. Simonson and Clemson Professor of Physics Terry M. Tritt.

Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Novel light sources made of 2D materials
28.10.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>