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

May 7, 2013 by Alison Hatt
Atomic force micrograph of nanowire-polymer composite films of varying composition, and schematic of highly conductive interfacial phase.

( —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: Berkeley lab scientists generate low-cost, hybrid thermoelectrics

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

Related Stories

Researchers at UA developing next-gen conductive polymers

December 23, 2010

( -- 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 of the ...

Recommended for you

Touchless displays superseding touchscreens?

October 2, 2015

While touchscreens are practical, touchless displays would be even more so. That's because, despite touchscreens having enabled the smartphone's advance into our lives and being essential for us to be able to use cash dispensers ...

Physicists map the strain in wonder material graphene

September 29, 2015

This week, an international group of scientists is reporting a breakthrough in the effort to characterize the properties of graphene noninvasively while acquiring information about its response to structural strain.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.