Synthesis and Characterization of Thermoelectric Oxides at Macro- and Nano-scales
Thermoelectric materials can directly convert a temperature difference into electrical voltage and vice versa. Due to this unique property, thermoelectric materials are widely used in industry and scientific laboratories for temperature sensing and thermal management applications. Waste heat harvesting, another potential application of thermoelectric materials, has long been limited by the low conversion efficiency of the materials. Potential high temperature applications, such as power plant waste heat harvesting and combustion engine exhaust heat recovery, make thermoelectric oxides a very promising class of thermoelectric materials. In this thesis, the synthesis and characterization of thermoelectric oxide materials are explored. In the first part of this thesis, the measurement methodologies and instrumentation processes employed to investigate different thermoelectric properties, such as the Seebeck coefficient and carrier concentration at the bulk scale and the thermal conductivity at the nanoscale, are detailed. Existing scientific and engineering challenges associated with these measurements are also reviewed. To overcome such problems, original parts and methodologies have been designed. Three fully functional systems were ultimately developed for the characterization of macroscale thermoelectric properties as well as localized thermal conductivity. In the second part of the thesis, the synthesis of NaxCo2O4, a thermoelectric oxide material, is discussed. Modification of both composition and structure were carried out so as to optimize the thermoelectric performance of NaxCo2O4. Nanostructuring methods, such as ball milling, electrospinning, auto-combustion synthesis, and core-shell structure fabrication, have been developed to refine the grain size of NaxCo2O4 in order to reduce its thermal conductivity. However, the structure of the nanostructured materials is very unstable at high temperature and limited improvement on thermoelectric performance is observed. Therefore, another technique was adopted to address this issue. A texturing process was also explored to optimize the NaxCo2O4 structure. It was found that a highly textured structure can be obtained using a combined process of combustion synthesis, chemical demixing, and a flux method.
- Mechanical engineering