Research Project

Thermoelectric Polymer Blends

Solutions to worldwide energy challenges will need to be drawn from a variety of approaches. We have begun a project whose goals are to tune the energy levels and charge densities in polymer blends.

Nanostructured inorganics in semiconductive polymer matrices

Nanostructured inorganics in semiconductive polymer matrices

Solutions to worldwide energy challenges will need to be drawn from a variety of approaches, including conversion of thermal energy into more useful energy forms, such as electricity, and the electronically-induced redistribution of heat from cold reservoirs to warm ones. These capabilities, known as thermoelectric effects, have been known for many decades, though progress in increasing the key figure of merit “ZT” has been minimal during this time. ZT increases as a function of dV/dT (the Seebeck coefficient “S”) and electrical conductivity (σ), and decreases as a function of thermal conductivity (κ). Unfortunately, these variables cannot be independently controlled, and the resulting tradeoffs severely limit ZT to a value several times lower than the practical requirements. We have begun a project whose goals are to tune the energy levels and charge densities in polymer blends so that ZT as a whole can be increased. This involves blends with more than one component providing charge carrier states, so that the Fermi level is offset from the charge transport level, and the total charge density is high enough to lead to significant conductivity.

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