Electron and phonon transport in disordered thermoelectric materials : dimensional confinement, resonant scattering and localization

Abstract : Over the past decades, the increasingly pressing need for clean energy sources and the realization that a huge proportion of the world energy consumption is wasted in heat have prompted great interest in developing efficient thermoelectric generation modules. These devices could harvest waste heat from industrial processes or other sources, turning a temperature gradient into a voltage through the Seebeck effect. Efficient thermoelectric materials should exhibit a low thermal conductivity, a high electrical conductivity and a high Seebeck coefficient. Simultaneously optimizing these parameters is a great challenge of condensed matter physics and materials science. With a view to enhance the thermoelectric properties of several promising materials, we explore several strategies in which defects (atomic substitutions, vacancies…), disorder and dimensional confinement play a crucial role. We perform density functional theory calculations and projections on Wannier orbitals to construct realistic Hamiltonians and dynamical matrices describing their electronic and vibrational structure in real space. These parameters are then used to compute the thermoelectric transport properties using the Kubo formalism, the Boltzmann transport equation, the Landauer formalism, and the Chebyshev polynomial Green's function method that allows for an exact treatment of disorder. We investigate the electronic transport properties and thermoelectric performances of two promising materials for high-temperature power generation, strontium titanate and rutile titanium dioxide. Comparison of our predictions with a wealth of experimental data yields a very good agreement. We show that the increase of the Seebeck coefficient observed in strontium titanate superlayers, until now attributed to quantum confinement effects, is in fact well explained assuming delocalized electrons. The general effects of resonant states on electronic transport are explored in a model study, showing a sixfold increase of the thermoelectric performances. The particular case of strontium titanate is then examined, and localization effects are shown to destroy the performances if Vanadium atoms are introduced as resonant impurities. The influence of defects in two-dimensional materials is investigated. Contrary to adatoms, substitutions in transition metal dichalcogenides are shown to localize the charge carriers. We study the effect of vacancies on phonon transport in graphene, and determine the phonon-vacancy scattering rate. Comparison with thermal conductivity data for irradiated and finite-size graphene samples yields a very good agreement between theory and experiments
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Submitted on : Friday, November 8, 2019 - 4:49:42 PM
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Simon Thébaud. Electron and phonon transport in disordered thermoelectric materials : dimensional confinement, resonant scattering and localization. Physics [physics]. Université de Lyon, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSE1168⟩. ⟨tel-02356350⟩

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