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Thermoelectric Materials: Theory and Experiment

Out of all the energy generated by mankind, more than half is transformed into waste heat.
Considering the continuously increasing energy demands of our society, recovering part of the waste
heat – normally lost – would be extremely beneficial, both for our society and for the environment. As
proven by first field tests in trucks and cars, thermoelectric materials are capable of converting energy
from the waste heat of the exhaust gases of automobiles into useful energy. This electricity production
with current state-of-the-art thermoelectric generators may lead to fuel economy improvements of 5%
- 10% by reducing the alternator load on the engine. In addition, the electricity may be employed to
charge the battery of a hybrid car containing an electrical engine.
Materials synthesis and analysis, property measurements, and electronic structure calculations
are of vital importance for this research. Here two different research topics will be presented, namely
one on nanostructuring of Mo 3 Sb 7–x Te x , a material originally developed and subsequently optimized as
a high temperature thermoelectric bulk material in our group, and the second one on improving the
properties of PbTe, a traditional high temperature thermoelectric.