Schemes for and Mechanisms of Reduction in Thermal Conductivity in Nanostructured Thermoelectrics

XL Zhang and M Hu and KP Giapis and D Poulikakos, JOURNAL OF HEAT TRANSFER-TRANSACTIONS OF THE ASME, 134, 102402 (2012).

DOI: 10.1115/1.4006750

Nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (NEMD) simulations were performed to investigate schemes for enhancing the energy conversion efficiency of thermoelectric nanowires (NWs), including (1) roughening of the nanowire surface, (2) creating nanoparticle inclusions in the nanowires, and (3) coating the nanowire surface with other materials. The enhancement in energy conversion efficiency was inferred from the reduction in thermal conductivity of the nanowire, which was calculated by imposing a temperature gradient in the longitudinal direction. Compared to pristine nanowires, our simulation results show that the schemes proposed above lead to nanocomposite structures with considerably lower thermal conductivity (up to 82% reduction), implying similar to 5X enhancement in the ZT coefficient. This significant effect appears to have two origins: (1) increase in phonon-boundary scattering and (2) onset of interfacial interference. The results suggest new fundamental-yet realizable ways to improve markedly the energy conversion efficiency of nanostructured thermoelectrics. DOI: 10.1115/1.4006750

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