By ball milling alloyed bulk crystalline ingots into nanopowders and hot pressing them, we had demonstrated high figure-of-merit in nanostructured bulk bismuth antimony telluride. In this study, we use the same ball milling and hot press technique, but start with elemental chunks of bismuth, antimony, and tellurium to avoid the ingot formation step. We show that a peak ZT of about 1.3 in the temperature range of 75 and 100 °C has been achieved. This process is more economical and environmentally friendly than starting from alloyed bulk crystalline ingots. The ZT improvement is caused mostly by the lower thermal conductivity, similar as the case using ingot. Transmission electron microscopy observations of the microstructures suggest that the lower thermal conductivity is mainly due to the increased phonon scattering from the increased grain boundaries of the nanograins, precipitates, nanodots, and defects. Our material also exhibits a ZT of 0.7 at 250 °C, similar to the value obtained when ingot was used. This study demonstrates that high ZT values can be achieved in nanostructured bulk materials with ball milling elemental chunks, suggesting that the approach can be applied to other materials that are hard to be made into ingot, in addition to its advantage of lower manufacturing cost.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering