Parallel Dislocation Networks and Cottrell Atmospheres Reduce Thermal Conductivity of PbTe Thermoelectrics

Lamya Abdellaoui, Zhiwei Chen, Yuan Yu, Ting Luo, Riley Hanus, Torsten Schwarz, Ruben Bueno Villoro, Oana Cojocaru-Mirédin, Gerald Jeffrey Snyder, Dierk Raabe, Yanzhong Pei, Christina Scheu*, Siyuan Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Dislocations play an important role in thermal transport by scattering phonons. Nevertheless, for materials with intrinsically low thermal conductivity, such as thermoelectrics, classical models require exceedingly high numbers of dislocations (>1012 cm–2) to further impede thermal transport. In this work, a significant reduction in thermal conductivity of Na0.025Eu0.03Pb0.945Te is demonstrated at a moderate dislocation density of 1 × 1010 cm–2. Further characteristics of dislocations, including their arrangement, orientation, and local chemistry are shown to be crucial to their phonon-scattering effect and are characterized by correlative microscopy techniques. Electron channeling contrast imaging reveals a uniform distribution of dislocations within individual grains, with parallel lines along four <111> directions. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) shows the parallel networks are edge-type and share the same Burgers vectors within each group. Atom probe tomography reveals the enrichment of dopant Na at dislocation cores, forming Cottrell atmospheres. The dislocation network is demonstrated to be stable during in situ heating in the TEM. Using the Callaway transport model, it is demonstrated that both parallel arrangement of dislocations and Cottrell atmospheres make dislocations more efficient in phonon scattering. These two mechanisms provide new avenues to lower the thermal conductivity in materials for thermal-insulating applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2101214
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 17 2021


  • Cottrell atmospheres
  • correlative microscopy
  • dislocation networks
  • phonon transport
  • thermoelectrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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