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Critical Overview of Recent Approaches to Improved Thermoelectric Materials

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Thermoelectric devices can convert heat into useful electricity with no moving parts. Considerable progress has been made in improving the efficiency of these devices over the past 15 years. The key ideas responsible for most of this progress will be examined using specific examples. Recent improvements in thermoelectric efficiency appear to be dominated by a reduction in the lattice thermal conductivity. This reduction is accomplished by the careful introduction of 0.1–5-nm sized “objects” that effectively scatter acoustic phonons without significantly affecting electronic transport. Future research directions will be discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Materials Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6056

Publication date: 2007-08-01

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