Ultra-fast synthesis and thermoelectric properties of Te doped skutterudites†
The self-propagating-high-temperature-synthesis (SHS) technique is applied here for the first time to synthesize CoSb3 thermoelectric materials. Mixtures of Co and Sb powders were compacted into pellets which were ignited from one end. A single-phase skutterudite material was obtained in a very short period of time using the SHS process which is maintained by the heat released from the chemical reaction of Co with Sb. Thermodynamic parameters and kinetics of the SHS reaction are investigated. The ignition temperature, adiabatic temperature, and the propagation speed of the combustion wave in the synthesis of CoSb3 are 723 K, 861 K, and 1.25 mm s−1, respectively. Using the SHS technique followed by Plasma Activated Sintering (PAS), we synthesized high performance bulk skutterudites of composition CoSb2.85 Te0.15 with a ZT of 0.98 at 820 K, one of the highest ZT values for an unfilled form of skutterudites. Compared with the samples synthesized by the traditional methods, the synthesis time is shortened from the typical several days to less than 20 minutes. Our work opens a new avenue for ultra-fast, low cost, mass production fabrication of skutterudite-based materials, which may also be universally applicable for the synthesis of other thermoelectric materials.