Density, distribution and nature of planar faults in silver antimony telluride for thermoelectric applications

Abdellaoui, L. and Zhang, S. and Zaefferer, S. and Bueno-Villoro, R. and Baranovskiy, A. and Cojocaru-Mirédin, O. and Yu, Y. and Amouyal, Y. and Raabe, D. and Snyder, G.J. and Scheu, C.

Volume: 178 Pages: 135-145
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2019.07.031
Published: 2019

Defects such as planar faults in thermoelectric materials improve their performance by scattering phonons with short and medium mean free paths (3–100 nm), thereby reducing the lattice thermal conductivity,κl. Understanding statistically the microscopic distribution of these extended defects within the grains and in low angle grain boundaries is necessary to tailor and develop materials with optimal thermoelectric performance for waste heat harvesting. Herein, we analyze these defects from the millimeter down to the nanometer scale in a AgSbTe2 thermoelectric material with low angle grain boundaries. The investigations were performed using electron channeling contrast imaging combined with transmission electron microscopy. The microstructure study was complemented by estimating the effect of planar faults on the phonon scattering using the Debye-Callaway model. AgSbTe2 is a promising thermoelectric material, which exhibits extremely low thermal conductivity, κ, of 0.5 Wm−1K−1 at room temperature. In contrast to conventional alloys or intermetallic materials, in the present material small angle grain boundaries are not composed of individual dislocations but of a dense arrangement of stacked planar faults with fault densities up to NPF=1.6⋅108m−1. We explain their abundance based on their low interfacial energy of about 186 mJm−2 calculated ab-initio. The current findings show, that it is possible to reach very high densities of phonon-scattering planar faults by the correct microstructure engineering in AgSbTe2 thermoelectric materials. © 2019 Acta Materialia Inc.

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