Thermoelectric stability of Eu- and Na-substituted PbTe†
As one family of the most investigated thermoelectrics (TE), PbTe-based materials have been developed into state-of-the-art p-type and n-type TE materials. However, there are quite a few studies focusing on the reproducibility of TE properties and microstructure evolution during different heat treatments. In this work, Pb0.98−xNa0.02EuxTe (x = 0–0.030) samples were systematically examined after three different kinds of heat treatments: spark plasma sintering (SPS), laser flash measurement (LFA), and long-term annealing. The maximal solubility of Eu (ca. 1.0 atom%) in Pb0.98−xNa0.02EuxTe was established at 873 K. The most inhomogeneous samples (samples after SPS) show highest values of figure-of-merit, ZTmax, of up to 2.1 at 760 K, due to a large number of micrometer-scale sodium- and europium-rich aggregations in them. After additional heat treatment (LFA measurement or long-term annealing), the ZTmax value reduces to 1.6. The distribution of Eu and Na in the samples becomes much more homogeneous, accompanied by increased lattice parameters and decreased carrier concentrations. The long-term annealed samples have the best stable TE properties and good mechanical stability in the cyclic measurements. Surface protection needs to be considered for the temperatures above 773 K in order to avoid material decomposition.
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