Modified Polyol Synthesis of Tetrahedrite (Cu12Sb4S13)
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Anderson, Chemistry
Synthesizing thermoelectric materials by low-cost, low-energy methods can potentially alleviate the current energy crisis because of the ability of these materials to convert waste heat into electrical current. While most thermoelectric materials contain rare earth metals, tetrahedrite is composed of earth-abundant elements and exhibits high performing thermoelectric properties due to a low thermal conductivity from its complex unit cell. A solution phase, solid-state synthesis technique known as the modified polyol process was used to synthesize pure tetrahedrite nanoparticles. These nanoparticles were characterized by powder x-ray diffractometry, scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. Thermopower, electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity measurements were taken for this material to determine the maximum figure of merit (ZT) values, which describes the efficiency of the energy conversion. The values found for our materials were on par with or exceed those of tetrahedrite fabricated by conventional high energy and time consuming processes. Cu sites can be doped with Zn to improve efficiency and the reaction was scaled up to produce over 2 grams of material, which enabled the thermoelectric characterization of nanomaterials from a single batch reaction.
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