Composite organic/inorganic thermoelectric is more than sum of its parts

May 07, 2013 by Alison Hatt
Atomic force micrograph of nanowire-polymer composite films of varying composition, and schematic of highly conductive interfacial phase.

(Phys.org) —A team led by Berkeley Lab Materials Sciences Division's Jeffrey Urban and Rachel Segalman have discovered highly conductive polymer behavior occurring at a polymer/nanocrystal interface. The composite organic/inorganic material is a thermoelectric – a material capable of converting heat into electricity – and has a higher performance than either of its constituent materials. The results may impact not only thermoelectrics research, but also polymer/nanocrystal composites being investigated for photovoltaics, batteries, and hydrogen storage.

An efficient thermoelectric material made from polymers and nanocrystals is an attractive prospect as it would be significantly cheaper to fabricate than traditional thermoelectrics. Here the researchers synthesized tellurium nanowires with PEDOT:PSS, a common , and cast thin films of the resulting solution. Intriguingly, the team found that the composite films had higher thermoelectric performance than either the polymer or nanowires alone.

High electrical conductivity is seen in composite polymer/nanowire films corresponding to an intermediate weight fraction of tellurium nanowires.

The researchers rationalized their unusual results by modeling the films as a composite of three distinct materials: nanowires, bulk polymer, and a new interfacial polymer phase with increased . The highly conductive interfacial polymer phase suggests new routes to enhancing electronic and thermal properties in hybrid materials and devices, for thermoelectric energy conversion and other energy applications.

Explore further: Researcher customizes nanoscale systems for large-scale impact in light and energy

More information: Coates, N. et al. Effect of Interfacial Properties on Polymer–Nanocrystal Thermoelectric Transport, Advanced Materials 25, 1629-1633 (2012). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201203915

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers at UA developing next-gen conductive polymers

Dec 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Conductive polymers, while not quite wonder materials, have the potential for being so and University of Akron polymer scientists and polymer engineers are focused on developing the next generation ...

Recommended for you

Copper shines as flexible conductor

6 hours ago

Bend them, stretch them, twist them, fold them: modern materials that are light, flexible and highly conductive have extraordinary technological potential, whether as artificial skin or electronic paper.

Nanoparticles may aid oil recovery, frack fluid tracking

7 hours ago

Two Colorado State University researchers are examining how nanoparticles move underground, knowledge that could eventually help improve recovery in oil fields and discover where hydraulic fracking chemicals ...

Nanostructure enlightening dendrite-free metal anode

Aug 19, 2014

Graphite anodes have been widely used for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) during the past two decades. The replacement of metallic lithium with graphite enables safe and highly efficient operation of LIBs, however, ...

User comments : 0