A study of Yb0.2Co4Sb12–AgSbTe2 nanocomposites: simultaneous enhancement of all three thermoelectric properties
The single-filled skutterudite Yb0.2Co4Sb12 has been long known as a promising bulk thermoelectric material. In this work, we adopted a melting–milling–hot pressing procedure to prepare nanocomposites that consist of a micrometer-grained Yb0.2Co4Sb12 matrix and well-dispersed AgSbTe2 nanoinclusions on the matrix grain boundaries. Different weight percentages of AgSbTe2 inclusions were added to optimize the thermoelectric performance. We found that the addition of AgSbTe2 nanoinclusions systematically and simultaneously optimized the otherwise adversely inter-dependent electrical conductivity, Seebeck coefficient and thermal conductivity. In particular, the significantly enhanced carrier mobility led to a ∼3-fold reduction of the electrical resistivity. Meanwhile the absolute value of Seebeck coefficient was enhanced via the energy filtering effect at the matrix–nanoinclusion interfaces. Moreover there is a topological crossover of the AgSbTe2 inclusions from isolated nanoparticles to a nano-plating or nano-coating between 6 wt% and 8 wt% of nanoinclusions. Above the crossover, further addition of nanoinclusions degraded the Seebeck coefficient and the electrical conductivity. Meanwhile, the addition of nanoinclusions generally reduced the lattice thermal conductivity. As a result, the power factor of the 6 wt% sample was ∼7 times larger than that of the nanoinclusion-free sample, yielding a room temperature figure of merit ZT ∼ 0.51.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2014 Journal of Materials Chemistry A Hot Articles