What electronic structure provides the largest figure of merit for thermoelectric materials? To answer that question, we write the electrical conductivity, thermopower, and thermal conductivity as integrals of a single function, the transport distribution. Then we derive the mathematical function for the transport distribution, which gives the largest figure of merit. A delta-shaped transport distribution is found to maximize the thermoelectric properties. This result indicates that a narrow distribution of the energy of the electrons participating in the transport process is needed for maximum thermoelectric efficiency. Some possible realizations of this idea are discussed.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||4|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jul 23 1996|
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