Researchers report high thermoelectric performance for indium-doped tin telluride; waste heat recovery applications
9 September 2013
Researchers at the University of Houston’s physics department and the Texas Center for Superconductivity, MIT and Boston College have found that indium-doped tin telluride (SnTe) shows high thermoelectric performance, with a peak figure of merit (ZT) of ∼1.1 in 0.25 atom % In-doped SnTe at about 873 K (600 ° C). From an environmental perspective, they note in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead-free SnTe would be preferable for solid-state waste heat recovery if its thermoelectric figure-of-merit could be brought close to that of the lead-containing chalcogenides.
Telluride has been studied for years, said Zhifeng Ren, M.D. Anderson Chair professor of physics at the University of Houston and one of the corresponding authors of the paper. But earlier work faltered because lead-containing telluride, despite its strong thermoelectric properties, can’t be used commercially because of the health risks associated with lead, Ren said.
Ren and his research team arrived at UH in January from Boston College. This work continues his long-standing research into nanostructured thermoelectrics and thermoelectric energy conversion.
Qian Zhang, a research associate in Ren’s group who designed the experiment, said she ultimately decided to add the indium dopant to alter the electrical properties of the tin telluride.
With the performance of the indium-doped SnTe thermoelectric material, an thermoelectric generator (TEG) could capture heat from a car’s tailpipe and convert it to power the car’s electronics, improving the car’s mileage by about 5%, Ren said.
Ren suggested it could boost the efficiency of coal-fired power plants or other industrial plants from 40% to as much as 48%.
Qian Zhang, Bolin Liao, Yucheng Lan, Kevin Lukas, Weishu Liu, Keivan Esfarjani, Cyril Opeil, David Broido, Gang Chen, and Zhifeng Ren (2013) High thermoelectric performance by resonant dopant indium in nanostructured SnTe. PNAS 110 (33) 13261-13266 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1305735110
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