Reversible thermoelectric nanomaterials

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Mar 11;94(9):096601. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.096601. Epub 2005 Mar 9.


Irreversible effects in thermoelectric materials limit their efficiency and economy for applications in power generation and refrigeration. While electron transport is unavoidably irreversible in bulk materials, here we derive conditions under which reversible diffusive electron transport can be achieved in nanostructured thermoelectric materials. We provide a fundamental thermodynamic explanation for why the optimum density of states in a thermoelectric material is a delta function and for why inhomogeneous doping and segmentation improve the thermoelectric figure of merit.