In the present work, we report a solution-based strategy to produce crystallographically textured SnSe bulk nanomaterials and printed layers with optimized thermoelectric performance in the direction normal to the substrate. Our strategy is based on the formulation of a molecular precursor that can be continuously decomposed to produce a SnSe powder or printed into predefined patterns. The precursor formulation and decomposition conditions are optimized to produce pure phase 2D SnSe nanoplates. The printed layer and the bulk material obtained after hot press displays a clear preferential orientation of the crystallographic domains, resulting in an ultralow thermal conductivity of 0.55 W m-1 K-1 in the direction normal to the substrate. Such textured nanomaterials present highly anisotropic properties with the best thermoelectric performance in plane, i.e., in the directions parallel to the substrate, which coincide with the crystallographic bc plane of SnSe. This is an unfortunate characteristic because thermoelectric devices are designed to create/harvest temperature gradients in the direction normal to the substrate. We further demonstrate that this limitation can be overcome with the introduction of small amounts of tellurium in the precursor. The presence of tellurium allows one to reduce the band gap and increase both the charge carrier concentration and the mobility, especially the cross plane, with a minimal decrease of the Seebeck coefficient. These effects translate into record out of plane ZT values at 800 K.
Keywords: SnSe; molecular ink; nanomaterial; printing; thermoelectricity.