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Louis Vaure

Semiconducting chalcopyrite nanocrystals based materials for thermoelectric conversion

Published on 27 January 2017
Thesis presented January 27, 2017

This thesis presents the studies made on semiconducting nanocrystals, to be integrated in thermoelectric generators. Thermoelectricity generates a current through a temperature difference between two faces, connected by thermoelectric legs which conduct the charges. Nowadays, the most efficient materials at room temperature contains tellurium, which is toxic and expansive due to its scarcity. A study on theory and literature is carried to understand the underlying phenomena which help us explain the thermoelectric conversion. The potentially interesting materials are selected for their cost and efficiency, tunable by varying different parameters. Chalcopyrite, of formula CuFeS2, presents promising properties for thermoelectricity, and offers an interesting way to replace classic materials as a non-toxic earth-abundant substitute. The chemical synthesis allows to control the composition of the material and to obtain 30 to 50 nm sized nanocrystals, able to scatter phonons and diminish the thermal conductivity of the material as a consequence. The thesis is describing the study of these semiconducting CuFeS2 nanocrystals, and is divided in two main parts. The first part describes the chemical synthesis of the nanocrystals and the characterization of their structure. Two ways of synthesis are developed and optimized, allowing to control the stoichiometry of the material, and to obtain crystals of different sizes and shapes. A complete study of the composition of the nanocrystals is made by XPS, EDX and thermogravimetric analysis. The study of the material by X-ray diffraction shows that the chemical composition of the nanocrystals, as well as the temperature and the pressure, have an influence on their crystalline phase. A phase transition from the wurtzite phase to the chalcopyrite phase is described. In the second part, are studied the thermoelectric properties of the nanocrystals. Their preparation as solid materials is described. The improvement made on their efficiency is following three main paths. The obtained material is a n type conductor, which means it carries electrons. Its thermal conductivity is reduced due to the nanostructuration. The first strategy consists in varying the composition of the nanocrystals, and especially the ratio between positive and negative charges, carried by ions, to modify the electrical conductivity and Seebeck coefficient of the material through doping. The second way of improvement is by replacing the native insulating ligands of the nanocrystals by short inorganic conducting ones, to increase the electrical properties of the material. Finally, metallic nanoparticles, of silver, tin and copper, are blended with the nanocrystals to improve the electrical conductivity of the resulting nanocomposite material. This thesis helps one to understand the relation between structure, composition and thermoelectrical properties of ternary semiconducting materials. It is possible to think of ways of improvement for the studied materials. Our best results are state of the art for this family of materials, especially around room temperature. There is room for improvement, with a proper combination of the studied parameters. During a future work, the optimized material could be integrated to a thermoelectric - photovoltaic device, for conversion of the solar energy through the two phenomena.

Photovoltaics, Thermoelectricity, Nanomaterials

On-line thesis.