Research ArticleMATERIALS SCIENCE

Understanding the asymmetrical thermoelectric performance for discovering promising thermoelectric materials

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Science Advances  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaav5813
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav5813

Abstract

Thermoelectric modules, consisting of multiple pairs of n- and p-type legs, enable converting heat into electricity and vice versa. However, the thermoelectric performance is often asymmetrical, in that one type outperforms the other. In this paper, we identified the relationship between the asymmetrical thermoelectric performance and the weighted mobility ratio, a correlation that can help predict the thermoelectric performance of unreported materials. Here, a reasonably high ZT for the n-type ZrCoBi-based half-Heuslers is first predicted and then experimentally verified. A high peak ZT of ~1 at 973 K can be realized by ZrCo0.9Ni0.1Bi0.85Sb0.15. The measured heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency for the unicouple of ZrCoBi-based materials can be as high as ~10% at the cold-side temperature of ~303 K and at the hot-side temperature of ~983 K. Our work demonstrates that the ZrCoBi-based half-Heuslers are highly promising for the application of mid- and high-temperature thermoelectric power generation.

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