Nature Publishing Group
Over the past two decades several nano-structuring methods have helped improve the figure of merit (ZT) in the state-of-the art bulk thermoelectric materials. While these methods could enhance the thermoelectric performance of p-type Bi2Te3, it was frustrating to researchers that they proved ineffective for n-type Bi2Te3 due to the inevitable deterioration of its thermoelectric properties in the basal plane. Here, we describe a novel chemical-exfoliation spark-plasma-sintering (CE-SPS) nano-structuring process, which transforms the microstructure of n-type Bi2Te3 in an extraordinary manner without compromising its basal plane properties. The CE-SPS processing leads to preferential scattering of electrons at charged grain boundaries, and thereby increases the electrical conductivity despite the presence of numerous grain boundaries, and mitigates the bipolar effect via band occupancy optimization leading to an upshift (by ~ 100 K) and stabilization of the ZT peak over a broad temperature range of ~ 150 K.
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