Research ArticleMATERIALS SCIENCE

Critical enhancement of thermopower in a chemically tuned polar semimetal MoTe2

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Science Advances  11 Nov 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 11, e1601378
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601378

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Abstract

Ferroelectrics with spontaneous electric polarization play an essential role in today’s device engineering, such as capacitors and memories. Their physical properties are further enriched by suppressing the long-range polar order, as exemplified by quantum paraelectrics with giant piezoelectric and dielectric responses at low temperatures. Likewise in metals, a polar lattice distortion has been theoretically predicted to give rise to various unusual physical properties. However, to date, a “ferroelectric”-like transition in metals has seldom been controlled, and hence, its possible impacts on transport phenomena remain unexplored. We report the discovery of anomalous enhancement of thermopower near the critical region between the polar and nonpolar metallic phases in 1T′-Mo1−xNbxTe2 with a chemically tunable polar transition. It is unveiled from the first-principles calculations and magnetotransport measurements that charge transport with a strongly energy-dependent scattering rate critically evolves toward the boundary to the nonpolar phase, resulting in large cryogenic thermopower. Such a significant influence of the structural instability on transport phenomena might arise from the fluctuating or heterogeneous polar metallic states, which would pave a novel route to improving thermoelectric efficiency.

Keywords
  • Polar metal
  • transition metal dichalcogenides
  • semimetal
  • thermopower
  • optical second-harmonic generation
  • polar structural transition
  • critical scattering
  • first-principles calculation

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