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Published February 9, 2010 | public
Journal Article

Zintl Chemistry for Designing High Efficiency Thermoelectric Materials


Zintl phases and related compounds are promising thermoelectric materials; for instance, high zT has been found in Yb_(14)MnSb_(11), clathrates, and the filled skutterudites. The rich solid-state chemistry of Zintl phases enables numerous possibilities for chemical substitutions and structural modifications that allow the fundamental transport parameters (carrier concentration, mobility, effective mass, and lattice thermal conductivity) to be modified for improved thermoelectric performance. For example, free carrier concentration is determined by the valence imbalance using Zintl chemistry, thereby enabling the rational optimization of zT. The low thermal conductivity values obtained in Zintl thermoelectrics arise from a diverse range of sources, including point defect scattering and the low velocity of optical phonon modes. Despite their complex structures and chemistry, the transport properties of many modern thermoelectrics can be understood using traditional models for heavily doped semiconductors.

Additional Information

© 2010 American Chemical Society. Received July 2, 2009. Revised Manuscript Received September 23, 2009. Publication Date (Web): November 9, 2009. Accepted as part of the 2010 "Materials Chemistry of Energy Conversion Special Issue." We thank the Beckman Foundation and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for support.

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