Band engineering of thermoelectric materials

Yanzhong Pei*, Heng Wang, G. J. Snyder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

792 Scopus citations


Lead chalcogenides have long been used for space-based and thermoelectric remote power generation applications, but recent discoveries have revealed a much greater potential for these materials. This renaissance of interest combined with the need for increased energy efficiency has led to active consideration of thermoelectrics for practical waste heat recovery systems-such as the conversion of car exhaust heat into electricity. The simple high symmetry NaCl-type cubic structure, leads to several properties desirable for thermoelectricity, such as high valley degeneracy for high electrical conductivity and phonon anharmonicity for low thermal conductivity. The rich capabilities for both band structure and microstructure engineering enable a variety of approaches for achieving high thermoelectric performance in lead chalcogenides. This Review focuses on manipulation of the electronic and atomic structural features which makes up the thermoelectric quality factor. While these strategies are well demonstrated in lead chalcogenides, the principles used are equally applicable to most good thermoelectric materials that could enable improvement of thermoelectric devices from niche applications into the mainstream of energy technologies. Band structure engineering approaches for high-performance thermoelectric materials have been demonstrated in lead chalcogenides, shedding light on effective strategies to increase the performance of thermoelectrics. These approaches for enhancing electrical properties are in principle independent of other mechanisms to achieve low lattice thermal conductivity, and enable a combination of effects for revolutionary applications of thermoelectrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6125-6135
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number46
StatePublished - Dec 4 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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