The approach taken in this paper in order to modify the scattering features of electrons and phonons and improve the figure of merit (ZT) of thermoelectric PbTe is to alter the microstructure at constant chemistry. A lamellar pattern of PbTe/GeTe at the nano- and microscale was produced in Pb 0.36Ge0.64Te alloy by the diffusional decomposition of a supersaturated solid solution. The mechanism of nanostructuration is most likely a discontinuous spinodal decomposition. A simple model relating the interface velocity to the observed lamellar spacing is proposed. The effects of nanostructuration in Pb0.36Ge0.64Te alloy on the electrical and thermal conductivity, thermopower and ZT were investigated. It was shown that nanostructuration through the formation of a lamellar pattern of PbTe/GeTe is unlikely to provide a significant improvement due to the occurrence of discontinuous coarsening. However, the present study allows an analysis of possible strategies to improve thermoelectric materials via optimal design of the microstructure and optimized heat treatment.
- Electrical resistivity/conductivity
- Spinodal decomposition