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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2008, Article ID 329601, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2008/329601
Review Article

Atomic Layer Thermopile Materials: Physics and Application

1Institute of Advanced Materials for Photoelcetrons, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming 650051, China
2Max-Planck-Institut für Festkörperforschung, D-70569 Stuttgart, Germany

Received 20 August 2007; Accepted 16 May 2008

Academic Editor: Donglu Shi

Copyright © 2008 P. X. Zhang and H.-U. Habermeier. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

New types of thermoelectric materials characterized by highly anisotropic Fermi surfaces and thus anisotropic Seebeck coefficients are reviewed. Early studies revealed that there is an induced voltage in high oxide superconductors when the surface of the films is exposed to short light pulses. Subsequent investigations proved that the effect is due to anisotropic components of the Seebeck tensor, and the type of materials is referred to atomic layer thermopile (ALT). Our recent studies indicate that multilayer thin films at the nanoscale demonstrate enhanced ALT properties. This is in agreement with the prediction in seeking the larger figure of merit (ZT) thermoelectric materials in nanostructures. The study of ALT materials provides both deep insight of anisotropic transport property of these materials and at the same time potential materials for applications, such as light detector and microcooler. By measuring the ALT properties under various perturbations, it is found that the information on anisotropic transport properties can be provided. The information sometimes is not easily obtained by other tools due to the nanoscale phase coexistence in these materials. Also, some remained open questions and future development in this research direction have been well discussed.