Bi and Zn co-doped SnTe thermoelectrics: interplay of resonance levels and heavy hole band dominance leading to enhanced performance and a record high room temperature ZT†
Lead free SnTe with a tunable electronic structure has become the front runner in eco-friendly thermoelectrics. Herein, we show through first-principles density functional theory calculations that Bi and Zn doping introduces a resonance level in SnTe. The dominance of the heavy hole valence band at room temperature in Bi–Zn co-doped SnTe leads to a record high room temperature ZT of ∼0.3 (at 300 K) for SnTe based materials. The increase in the Seebeck coefficient value due to the interaction between the resonance states and formation of the nanoprecipitates leading to an appreciably low lattice thermal conductivity of 0.68 W m−1 K−1 results in a peak ZT of ∼1.6 at 840 K. A record high ZTaverage of ∼0.86 with 300 K and 840 K as cold and hot ends, respectively, makes Bi–Zn co-doped SnTe a potential material for thermoelectric applications. This strategy of using two resonant dopants, to not only improve the room temperature ZT but also high temperature values, can very well be extended to other systems.