Thermoelectric Materials and Devices

A key issue of our activities is the development of thermoelectric materials in the form of thin films (electrodeposition) and nanostructured bulk (field-assisted sintering technology). A variety of measurement techniques are employed for the characterization of the temperature dependent thermoelectric transport coefficients, e.g. physical property measurement system, direct characterization of Seebeck coefficient and electrical conductivity, laserflash method, and Seebeck microscan. These activities are complemented by the fabrication of devices in different device architectures like thin films or pn-junction thermoelectric generators.

Recent Highlights

  • Quantum materials for thermoelectricitiy
    Johannes Gooth, Gabi Schierning, Claudia Felser, and Kornelius Nielsch
    MRS BULLETIN Vol. 43, Issue 3 (Materials for Energy Harvesting) March 2018, pp. 187-192
    (DOI:  10.1557/mrs.2018.34)

    Research in thermoelectric (TE) quantum structures was greatly propelled by the prediction in the early 1990s of a significant boost in TE efficiency by quantum size effects. Recently, research interest has shifted from quantum size effects in conventional semiconductors toward new types of quantum materials (e.g., topological insulators [TIs], Weyl and Dirac semimetals) characterized by their nontrivial electronic topology. Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, and Bi2Se3, established TE materials, are also TIs exhibiting a bulk bandgap and highly conductive and robust gapless surface states. The signature of the nontrivial electronic band structure on TE transport properties can be best verified in transport experiments using nanowires and thin films. However, even in nanograined bulk, the typical peculiarities in the transport properties of TIs can be seen. Finally, the remarkable transport properties of Dirac and Weyl semimetals are discussed.

  • THERMOELECTRICITY - Bring on the heat
    Gabi Schierning
    Nature Energy | VOL 3 | FEBRUARY 2018 | 92–93 | (DOI: 10.1038/s41560-018-0093-4)
    One third of industrial processes occur at high temperatures above 1300 K, but current methods of waste heat recovery at these temperatures are limited. Now, reduced graphene oxide is shown to be a highly efficient and reliable thermoelectric material up to 3000 K.

  • Thermoelectric Devices: A Review of Devices, Architectures, and Contact Optimization
    Ran He, Gabi Schierning, and Kornelius Nielsch
    Adv. Mater. Technol. 2018, 1700256 (DOI: 10.1002/admt.201700256)

    In recent years, the substantially improved performance of thermoelectric (TE) materials has attracted considerable interest in studying the potential applications of the TE technique. Serving as the bridge between TE materials and applicable TE products, TE devices must be properly designed, engineered, and assembled to meet the required performance of TE products for cooling (thermoelectric cooler) and power generation (thermoelectric generator). The principle feasibility of the TE technique has been demonstrated using a variety of different materials and processing technologies, and many different architectures of TE devices have been successfully realized. This review discusses the architectures of TE devices, including bulk and thin-film TE devices, TE devices with flexible designs, pn-junction-based TE devices that provide robust solutions for high operation temperatures, and the meta-material-based transverse TE devices. In addition, the assembly of TE devices involves contact layers on which the reliability of TE devices depends. Thus solutions to contact issues, including bonding strength, contact resistance, and thermomechanical stress, are also reviewed.

  • Improving the zT value of thermoelectrics by nanostructuring: tuning the nanoparticle morphology of Sb2Te3 by using ionic liquids
    Julian Schaumann, Manuel Loor, Derya Ünal, Anja Mudring, Stefan Heimann, Ulrich Hagemann, Stephan Schulz, Franziska Maculewicze and Gabi Schierning
    Dalton Trans., 2017, 46, 656–668 (DOI: 10.1039/c6dt04323b)

    A systematic study on the microwave-assisted thermolysis of the single source precursor (Et2Sb)2Te (1) in different asymmetric 1-alkyl-3-methylimidazolium- and symmetric 1,3-dialkylimidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) reveals the distinctive role of both the anion and the cation in tuning the morphology and microstructure of the resulting Sb2Te3 nanoparticles as evidenced by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). A comparison of the electrical and thermal conductivities as well as the Seebeck coefficient of the Sb2Te3 nanoparticles obtained from different ILs reveals the strong influence of the specific IL, from which C4mimI was identified as the best solvent, on the thermoelectric properties of as-prepared nanosized Sb2Te3. This work provides design guidelines for ILs, which allow the synthesis of nanostructured thermoelectrics with improved performances.

Department Info

Head: Dr. Gabi Schierning

Room A3E.07
Phone: +49 351 4659 1875
FAX: +49 351 4659 541

Email: g.schierning(at)

Collaborative research:

EU-TIPS Project:- Thermally Intergrated Smart Photonic Systems; European Union grant agreement No 644453 within Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.