Design of Transition-Metal Nitride Thin Films for Thermoelectrics
Sammanfattning: Thermoelectric devices are one of the promising energy harvesting technologies, because of their ability to convert heat (temperature gradient) to electricity by the Seebeck effect. Furthermore, thermoelectric devices can be used for cooling or heating by the inverse effect (Peltier effect). Since this conversion process is clean, with no emission of greenhouse gases during the process, this technology is attractive for recovering waste heat in automobiles or industries into usable electricity. However, the conversion efficiency of such devices is rather low due to fundamental materials limitations manifested through the thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT). Thus, there is high demand on finding materials with high ZT or strategies to improve ZT of materials.In this thesis, I discuss the basics of thermoelectrics and how to improve ZT of materials, including present-day strategies. Based on these ideas, I propose a new class of materials for thermoelectric applications: transition-metal nitrides, mainly ScN, CrN and their solid solutions. Here, I employed both experimental and theoretical methods to synthesize and study their thermoelectric properties. My study envisages ways for improving the thermoelectric figure of merit of ScN and possible new materials for thermoelectric applications.The results of my studies show that ScN is a promising thermoelectric material since it exhibits high thermoelectric power factor 2.5x10-3 Wm-1K-2 at 800 K, due to low metallic-like electrical resistivity while retained relatively large Seebeck coefficient. My studies on thermal conductivity of ScN also suggest a possibility to control thermal conductivity by tailoring the microstructure of ScN thin films. Furthermore, my theoretical studies on effects of impurities and stoichiometry on the electronic structure of ScN suggest the possibly to improve ScN ZT by stoichiometry tuning and doping. For CrN and Cr1-xScxN solid solution thin films, the results show that the power factor of CrN (8x10-4 Wm-1K-2 at 770 K) can be retained for the solid solution Cr0.92Sc0.08N. Finally, density functional theory was used to enable a systematic predictionbased strategy for optimizing ScN thermoelectric properties via phase stability of solid solutions. Sc1-xGdxN and Sc1-xLuxN are stabilized as disordered solid solutions, while in the Sc-Nb-N and Sc-Ta-N systems, the inherently layered ternary structures ScNbN2 and ScTaN2 are stable.
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