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.

(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: PEDOT:PSS: Improving thermoelectric materials that convert heat to electricity and vice-versa

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

(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 of the ...

Recommended for you

Atomic blasting creates new devices to measure nanoparticles

December 14, 2017

Like sandblasting at the nanometer scale, focused beams of ions ablate hard materials to form intricate three-dimensional patterns. The beams can create tiny features in the lateral dimensions—length and width, but to create ...

Engineers create plants that glow

December 13, 2017

Imagine that instead of switching on a lamp when it gets dark, you could read by the light of a glowing plant on your desk.

Faster, more accurate cancer detection using nanoparticles

December 12, 2017

Using light-emitting nanoparticles, Rutgers University-New Brunswick scientists have invented a highly effective method to detect tiny tumors and track their spread, potentially leading to earlier cancer detection and more ...

0 comments

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.