In situ nanostructuring in bulk thermoelectric materials through thermo-dynamic phase segregation has established itself as an effective paradigm for optimizing the performance of thermoelectric materials. In bulk PbTe small compositional variations create coherent and semicoherent nanometer sized precipitates embedded in a PbTe matrix, where they can impede phonon propagation at little or no expense to the electronic properties. In this paper the nanostructuring paradigm is for the first time extended to a bulk PbS based system, which despite obvious advantages of price and abundancy, so far has been largely disregarded in thermoelectric research due to inferior room temperature thermoelectric properties relative to the pristine fellow chalcogenides, PbSe and PbTe. Herein we report on the synthesis, microstructural morphology and thermoelectric properties of two phase (PbS)1-x(PbTe)xx = 0-0.16 samples. We have found that the addition of only a few percent PbTe to PbS results in a highly nanostructured material, where PbTe precipitates are coherently and semicoherently embedded in a PbS matrix. The present (PbS) 1-x(PbTe)x nanostructured samples show substantial decreases in lattice thermal conductivity relative to pristine PbS, while the electronic properties are left largely unaltered. This in turn leads to a marked increase in the thermoelectric figure of merit. This study underlines the efficiency of the nanostructuring approach and strongly supports its generality and applicability to other material systems. We demonstrate that these PbS-based materials, which are made primarily from abundant Pb and S, outperform optimally n-type doped pristine PbTe above 770 K.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry