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Determination of the thermoelectric properties of a skutterudite-based device at practical operating temperatures by impedance spectroscopy

Yoo, Chung-Yul, Yeon, Changho, Jin, Younghwan, Kim, Yeongseon, Song, Jinseop, Yoon, Hana, Park, Sang Hyun, Beltrán-Pitarch, Braulio, García-Cañadas, Jorge, Min, Gao
Applied energy 2019 v.251 pp. 113341
crystal structure, dielectric spectroscopy, electrical conductivity, microstructure, temperature, thermal conductivity, thermoelectric generators, titanium, transmission electron microscopy, waste heat recovery
Skutterudite-based thermoelectric materials are promising candidates for waste heat recovery applications at intermediate temperatures (300–500 °C) owing to their high dimensionless figure of merit and power factor. Recently, several researchers have reported the high performance of skutterudite-based thermoelectric devices obtained by optimizing the crystal structure and microstructure of skutterudite materials and developing metallization layers for device fabrication. Despite extensive research efforts toward maximizing the power density and thermoelectric conversion efficiency of skutterudite-based devices, the thermoelectric properties of such devices after fabrication remain largely unknown. Here, we systematically investigated the factors that affect the thermoelectric properties of skutterudite-based devices within the range of practical operating temperatures (23–450 °C). We successfully prepared a two-couple skutterudite-based device with titanium metallization layers on both sides of the thermoelectric legs and characterized it using scanning and transmission electron microscopy and specific contact resistance measurements. Impedance spectroscopy measurements of the two-couple skutterudite-based device revealed the figure of merit of the device and enabled the extraction of three key thermoelectric parameters (Seebeck coefficient, thermal conductivity, and electrical conductivity). The impedance spectra and extracted parameters depended strongly on the measurement temperature and were mainly attributable to the thermoelectric properties of skutterudite materials. These observations demonstrate the interplay between the properties of thermoelectric materials and devices and can aid in directing future research on thermoelectric device fabrication.