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The World’s First Flexible Full-Inorganic Thermoelectric Materials

Update time:2019-10-29
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The Internet Era is accompanied by a increasing demand for alternative power source in mW-to-mW range to drive distributed, wearable, and implantable microelectronics. It is hard for traditional electrochemical battery to keep up with the fast-paced progress of microelectronics in miniaturization, packing density, mechanical flexibility, bio-safety, and reliability. Nonetheless, thermoelectric battery excels where electrochemical battery falls short. Thermoelectrics is the simplest technique to directly convert heat, ubiquitous in environment, into electricity, a versatile form of energy. Thermoelectric devices are all solid-state, free of greenhouse emissions or moving parts, friendly for miniaturization, and low-maintain in the long term, however, they generally lack in mechanical flexibility, a key ingredient for wearable electronics.

Based upon the early discovery of the flexible inorganic semiconductor Ag2S (Nat. Mater., 2018, 17, 421-426), the research team led by Prof. Xun Shi and Prof. Lidong Chen at Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, in collaboration with Prof. Jian He from Clemson University, successfully fabricated the world’s first flexible full-inorganic thermoelectric power generation module based on silver calcogenides. Since Ag2S has poor thermoelectric performance despite its flexibility, Ag2Se and Ag2Te exhibit the opposite, it took serious materials research efforts via doping Se and Te on the S-site and controlling native defects to attain a delicate balance between the material’s thermoelectric performance (state-of-the-art figures of merit zTs up to 0.44 at 300 K and 0.63 at 450K) and flexibility.

The material’s mechanical, electrical and thermal properties survived bending tests, meeting the requirements of wearable electronics. The team has also solved several architecture design problems of the device. The as-fabricated 6-leg device exhibits a normalized maximum power density up to 0.08 W·m-1 near room temperature under a temperature difference of 20 K, orders of magnitude higher than organic devices and organic-inorganic hybrid devices. These results constitute a key initial step towards the new paradigm of flexible thermoelectrics, and shall inspire more follow-up research efforts, e.g., developing p-type legs in place of Pt/Rh wires. 

The study was published in Energy and Environmental Science with the title “Flexible thermoelectrics: from silver chalcogenides to full-inorganic devices”. This work is supported by National Key Research and Development Program, National Science Foundation of China, Youth Innovation Promotion Association of China Academy of Science, Shanghai Rising-star program etc.  

a) TE figure of merit zT and b) power factor PF for Ag2(S, Se), Ag2(S, Te), and Ag2(S, Se, Te) at 300 K. c) Upper panel: a schematic of the Ag2S0.5Se0.5/Pt-Rh in-plane device with Ag2S0.5Se0.5 as n-type legs and Pt-Ru wire as p-type legs. Bottom panel: optical image of a six-couple flexible Ag2S0.5Se0.5/Pt-Rh TE device. d) Comparison of normalized maximum power density (PmaxL/A) among the Ag2(S, Se)-based inorganic TE device, inorganic-organic hybrid flexible TE devices, and organic flexible TE devices.

 

 

 

Reference:

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2019/EE/C9EE01777A#! divAbstract

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-018-0047-z 

 

Contact:

Prof. Xun Shi

Shanghai Institute of Ceramics

Xshi@mail.sic.ac.cn

 

 
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