Large Thermoelectric Figure-of-Merits from SiGe Nanowires by Simultaneously Measuring Electrical and Thermal Transport Properties

EK Lee and L Yin and Y Lee and JW Lee and SJ Lee and J Lee and SN Cha and D Whang and GS Hwang and K Hippalgaonkar and A Majumdar and C Yu and BL Choi and JM Kim and K Kim, NANO LETTERS, 12, 2918-2923 (2012).

DOI: 10.1021/nl300587u

The strongly correlated thermoelectric properties have been a major hurdle for high-performance thermoelectric energy conversion. One possible approach to avoid such correlation is to suppress phonon transport by scattering at the surface of confined nanowire structures. However, phonon characteristic lengths are broad in crystalline solids, which makes nanowires insufficient to fully suppress heat transport. Here, we employed Si-Ge alloy as well as nanowire structures to maximize the depletion of heat-carrying phonons. This results in a thermal conductivity as low as similar to 1.2 W/m-K at 450 K, showing a large thermoelectric figure-of-merit (ZT) of similar to 0.46 compared with those of SiGe bulks and even ZT over 2 at 800 K theoretically. All thermoelectric properties were "simultaneously" measured from the same nanowires to facilitate accurate ZT measurements. The surface-boundary scattering is prominent when the nanowire diameter is over similar to 100 nm, whereas alloying plays a more important role in suppressing phonon transport for smaller ones.

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