K. Nielsch, J. Sommerlatte and J. Lee
Thermoelectric (TE) cooling and electrical power generators devices have many advantages in comparison with conventional refrigerators or electrical power generations, for example vibration free energy conversion and micrometer feature size. Due to the relative low efficiency, the application range of the present thermoelectric devices is very limited.
Theoretical predictions have shown a significant higher TE efficiency (2x to 3x) of low-dimensional TE materials, such as quantum dots (0-D) or nanowires (1-D), than in bulk materials. The efficiency enhancement is based on quantum size effects, a favourable carrier scattering mechanism, and a much lower thermal conductivity. The development of TE materials in the sub-100 nm range will lead to high-efficiency thermoelectric devices in the future. Beside the development of thermoelectric well-defined nanowires and nanotubes, we will characterise the TE properties of these nanostructures. Subsequently, high performance TE devices will be developed, for example in a lab-on-a-chip microstructure.
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