Research Article  Open Access
Degang Zhao, Jiai Ning, Shuyu Li, Min Zuo, "Synthesis and Thermoelectric Properties of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} Composites", Journal of Nanomaterials, vol. 2016, Article ID 5923975, 7 pages, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/5923975
Synthesis and Thermoelectric Properties of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} Composites
Abstract
Nanosized C_{60} powder was sufficiently incorporated with Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} powder by ball milling and C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites were prepared by spark plasma sintering. C_{60} distributed uniformly in the form of clusters and the average size of cluster was lower than 1 μm. With the addition of C_{60} increasing, the electrical resistivity and Seebeck coefficient of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increased while the thermal conductivity decreased significantly which resulted from the phonon scattering by C_{60} clusters locating on the grain boundaries of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix. The maximum ZT of 0.20 was achieved at 700 K for 0.9% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} sample.
1. Introduction
Thermoelectric (TE) material which directly converts electricity to heat (and vice versa) has attracted increasing worldwide attention due to their potential applications in electronic cooling, waste heat recovery, and special power supplies [1, 2]. The conversion efficiency of TE material is determined by the dimensionless figure of merit, , where α is the Seebeck coefficient, ρ is the electrical resistivity, T is the absolute temperature, and κ is the total thermal conductivity. The total thermal conductivity consists of an electron part () and a phonon part (). Therefore, to maximize ZT value of TE material, low κ and ρ as well as large α are required. In recent years, several classes of bulk materials with high ZT have been developed, such as lead telluride, skutterudite, clathrates, and Cubased chalcogenide semiconductors [3–5]. Cubased chalcogenide compounds with a diamondlike structure such as ternary Cu_{2}MSe_{3} (M = Sn, Ge) and Cu_{3}SbSe_{4} have attracted a lot of attention recently due to their quite low thermal conductivity. In several Cubased chalcogenide systems, the Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} structure has partial “phonon glass electron crystal” (PGEC) characteristic which is possible to achieve high TE performance. The CuSe bond network dominates the electron conduction while the contribution from the element Ge is very weak; thus the Ge site is suitable for optimizing TE property. Various attempts including doping by partial substitution have been made to improve the thermoelectric properties of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} compound [6–8]. Cho et al. synthesized the Cu_{2}Ga_{x}Se_{3} samples and achieved the ZT value of 0.50 for Cu_{2}Ga_{0.07}Sn_{0.93}Se_{3} sample [9]. Chetty et al. reported the maximum ZT value of indoped Cu_{2}In_{x}Se_{3} was 0.23 at 700 K for Cu_{2}In_{0.1}Ge_{0.9}Se_{3} sample [10]. Besides doping, the dispersion of nanostructure phases into thermoelectric matrix is also an attractive approach to improve the performance of TE materials. However, Cu_{2}GeSe_{3}based thermoelectric composites are scarcely investigated because the enhancement of ZT is unapparent compared with the doping. Although significant reduction in can be achieved via enhanced phonon scattering at matrix/inclusion interfaces, the electrical resistivity of TE composites maybe also increases resulting in a marginal improvement of the overall ZT value. Therefore, effective enhancement of ZT for TE composites depends on the good selection of dispersed nanophase and the control of microstructure of composites [11].
Fullerene C_{60} has ultra high elastic module and is a chemically stable nonpolar molecule. Nanosized C_{60} maybe provide an effective phonon scattering which decreases . Meanwhile, the scattering of the charge carriers by C_{60} molecules could be ineffective due to the large value of electron (hole) wavelength compared to a fullerene size. Blank et al. ever reported that the addition of 0.5 vol% C_{60} improved the TE properties of Bi_{0.5}Sb_{1.5}Te_{3} and the maximum ZT of 1.17 was obtained at 450 K [12, 13]. Shi et al. found that adding 6.5 mass% C_{60} into the binary CoSb_{3} can increase the ZT while adding amounts between 0.5% and 4.8% into CoSb_{3} decreased the ZT [14]. Nandihalli et al. also reported the ZT value of C_{60}/Ni_{0.05}Mo_{3}Sb_{5.4}Te_{1.6} composites was enhanced in the whole temperature range due to the large decrease of [15]. In this contribution, we attempted to introduce C_{60} into Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} system and expect to achieve larger reduction in of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites.
In the present work, C_{60} powder was incorporated into Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix using ball milling (BM) and C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites were fabricated by spark plasma sintering (SPS). Effects of C_{60} particles on the thermoelectric properties of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites were discussed.
2. Experimental Procedures
The polycrystalline samples Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} were synthesized by melting method. The stoichiometric amounts of starting materials Cu (powder, 99.95%), Ge (powder, 99.999%), and Se (shot, 99.999%) were first placed in carbon crucible enclosed in evacuated fusedsilica ampoules. The ampoules were slowly heated to 1223 K, held for 48 h in a vertical furnace, and then cooled to room temperature. To increase the homogeneity and crystallinity, the samples were annealed at 823 K for 72 h. The resulting ingots were initially ground into fine powder using mortar and pestle. Commercially available C_{60} powder with average particle size of 500 nm (Figure 1, XFNANO, China) was chosen as the nanoinclusions. C_{60} purity is 99.98% and the other 0.02% refers to impurities of C_{70} and other carbon structures. C_{60} particles were added to the Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} powder at fractions of 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, and 1.2 vol%, respectively. Then C_{60}added Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} powders were mechanically ground with planetary ball milling equipment at 200 rpm for 300 min in an argon atmosphere. Steel balls of 5 mm were charged as the milling media. The asmilled powders were sintered by spark plasma sintering (SPS 2040) at around 850 K for about 8 min under uniaxial pressure of 50 MPa in vacuum.
The densities of the sintered C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites were measured using the Archimedes method. The constituent phases of composites were determined by Xray diffractometry (Cu , Rigaku, Rint2000). The chemical compositions of bulk samples were characterized using electron probe microanalysis (EPMA, JEOL, and JXA8100) with a wavelength dispersive spectrometer (WDS). The compositions were calculated by averaging five spots. The microstructure of all C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites was observed by highresolution transmission electron microscopy (HREM, JEM2100F). The thermal diffusivity () was measured by laser flash method (Netzsch LFA427) in a flowing Ar atmosphere. The thermal conductivity was calculated from the relationship , where is the density of the sintered sample and is the specific heat capacity. (taken as 0.33 J/gK) was determined by the ratio method with a sapphire reference using a Netzsch Differential Scanning Calorimetry. The electrical resistivity and Seebeck coefficient were measured simultaneously using commercial equipment (ZEM3, ULVACRIKO) on the bartype sample with a dimension of 2 × 2 × 10 mm. The Hall coefficient () was measured using the van der Pauw’s method in vacuum with the magnetic field of 2 T. The carrier concentration () and mobility () were estimated from the relations of and based on the single band model, where is the electronic charge. All the measurements were performed in a temperature range of 300–700 K.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Microstructure and XRD Analysis
Figure 2 displays the SEM image of 0.9 vol% C_{60}added Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} powder after ball milling. It can be observed that the average size of milled C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} powder was about 100 nm. Figure 3 shows the XRD patterns of xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites (x = 0, 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, and 1.2 vol%) after SPS. The measured relative densities for all C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites after SPS are above 97% of the theoretical value. The diffraction peaks in Figure 3 are well indexed based on the JCPDS 652533 of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} (Imm2 group). However, no diffraction peak of C_{60} is found in the XRD of all C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} samples, which may be due to the low content of C_{60} in the composites. Therefore, all C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} samples show the same XRD patterns with the pure Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} sample. The sintered pure Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} sample and 1.2 vol% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite are listed in Figures 4(a) and 4(b), respectively. C_{60} distributed uniformly in the form of clusters and the average size of cluster was lower than 1 μm. In Shi et al.’s research, most of C_{60} agglomerate into irregular micrometer size clusters located at the grain boundaries in the CoSb_{3} material [14]. The smaller size of clusters in this study should be due to the ball milling technology. The chemical composition of bulk C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites was characterized by SEM and EDS, as shown in Figure 5. The results of EDS also confirm that the matrix was composed of 33.53 at.% Cu, 16.85 at.% Ge, and 49.62 at.% Se, indicating Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} phase. The black phase only contains C element, corresponding to C_{60} phase. Figure 6 is the HRTEM image of C_{60} clusters in the composite. The area surrounded by the dashed lines in Figure 6 is a C_{60} particle. The size of C_{60} was about 80 nm, which means the ball milling process decreases the average size of C_{60} powder significantly. According to the theory proposed by Faleev et al. [16, 17], nanophases that distribute in the thermoelectric matrix can result in strain fields, which could cause some changes in the band structure of material and greatly influence its thermoelectric properties.
3.2. Electrical Transport Properties
The electrical resistivity () as a function of temperature for C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites with different vol% C_{60} is shown in Figure 7. ρ of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix increases with rising temperature over the whole temperature range, indicating a typical behavior of a heavily doped semiconductor. The similar tendency of ρ was also present in C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites. In addition, ρ of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increases with the content of C_{60} increasing, which should be due to the enhanced carrier scattering at the incoherent interfaces between well dispersed C_{60} clusters and the Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix. Generally, in the case of carriers dominantly scattered by grain barriers or interfaces between the second phase and matrix in the composites, the carrier mobility can be expressed as [18]where is the Boltzmann constant, is the carrier effective mass, is the average grain size, and is the activation energy characterizing the barrier height between the matrix and second phase. As the relative density of xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite is higher than 97%, the porosity effect could be eliminated. Table 1 lists some physical parameters of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites at room temperature. It can be noted that the carrier mobility () decreases with the content of C_{60} increasing. Therefore, ρ of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increases compared with ρ of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix.

Figure 8 displays the Seebeck coefficient (α) of xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites as a function of temperature. All composites have a positive α over the whole temperature range, indicating the holes are major carriers. With rising temperature, α of all xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increases and α of 1.2% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite reaches 183 μV/K at 700 K. In addition, α of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increases with the content of C_{60} increasing. At room temperature, α increases from 58 μV/K for Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix to 101 μV/K for 1.2% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite. The enhancement of α of xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites should be related with the “energy filter” effect. The Seebeck coefficient can be expressed as [19]where , , and are Boltzmann constant, value of density of states (DOS), and electrical conductivity, respectively. When nanophases or nanoinclusions are incorporated into a semiconducting matrix, the band bending at inclusion/matrix interface will produce potential energy barrier which could effectively block low energy electrons, while transmitting high energy electrons [20]. This “electron energy filter” could enhance the Seebeck coefficient by moving the Fermi level () to an energy level with larger local DOS.
3.3. Thermal Transport Properties
Figure 9 displays the temperature dependence of total thermal conductivity (κ) and lattice thermal conductivity () for C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites. is estimated by subtracting the electronic contribution via the WiedemannFranz law (, where the Lorenz number is taken as a constant of 2.0 × 10^{−8} V^{2}/K^{2}) from the total thermal conductivity. κ for all samples declines with increasing temperature. Moreover, of xC_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites decreases with the content of C_{60} increasing. The achieved κ of 1.2% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite at room temperature is 1.43 W/mK, which is 45% lower than that of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix. The minimal of 1.2% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite is 0.65 W/mK at 700 K. As known to all, the grain boundary, wide or point defects, porosity, and impurity could contribute to the decrease of κ. Owing to the high relative density of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites, the reduction of κ originated from the porosity is negligible. Meanwhile, the calculation of shows that the reduction of has a limited contribution to the decrease of κ. Therefore, the decrease of κ for C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites mainly originates from the depression of due to the enhancement of phonon scattering by C_{60} inclusions or nanoparticles in the composite. Figure 9(b) is the temperature dependence of of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites. of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites drastically decreases with the content of C_{60} increasing. The minimal achieved in the present work is 0.58 W/mK at 700 K for 1.2% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3}, which is 59% lower than that of pure Cu_{2}GeSe_{3}.
(a)
(b)
3.4. Figure of Merit
Figure 10 shows the dimensionless figure of merit (ZT) of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites as a function of temperature. Like other doped Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} investigated before [9, 10, 21], the ZT value of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increases approximately linearly with increasing temperature. Compared with the ZT of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} sample, the ZT value of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites is enhanced. The inset in Figure 10 shows the ZT value as a function of volume fraction of C_{60} at different temperature. For 0.9% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite, the maximum ZT is 0.20 at 700 K which is almost three times higher than that of pure Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} sample. The enhancement of ZT for C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites is mainly attributed to the reduced and the enhanced α. The addition of nanoC_{60} into the Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix through BM method improves the TE properties, which provides a novel process to design Cubased chalcogenide compounds with high TE performance. When the material with optimized carrier concentration is selected as the matrix, the higher ZT value of TE composite could be obtained.
4. Conclusions
In this study, C_{60} was incorporated into Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix and C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites were fabricated using BMSPS method. C_{60} phase distributed uniformly in the form of clusters and the average size of cluster was lower than 1 μm. With the content of C_{60} increasing, the electrical resistivity and Seebeck coefficient of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites increased. The thermal conductivity of C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composites decreased significantly which originated from the phonon scattering by C_{60} clusters locating on the grain boundaries of Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} matrix. The highest ZT value for 0.9% C_{60}/Cu_{2}GeSe_{3} composite was 0.20 at 700 K.
Competing Interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank the help for the measurement of TE properties in California Institute of Technology and the discussion with Dr. Jeffrey. G. Snyder. Financial support from the National Natural Science Foundations of China (51202088) is acknowledged.
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Copyright © 2016 Degang Zhao et al. 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.