Selective Chemical Vapour Deposition for Production of Thermoelectric Micro-Generators for Energy Harvesting

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Chemistry

Abstract

Thermoelectric micro-generators are solid state devices that can provide constant sources of electricity. They have a number of very favourable features, i.e. no mechanical parts that can wear out, require little maintenance, have long lifetimes and produce no emissions. Solid-state thermoelectric devices are based upon one of two phenomena, the Seebeck effect, which can be used for power generation (energy harvesting), and the Peltier effect for electronic cooling or heating. In order to produce a functional thermoelectric device, an n-type doped material is connected electrically in series and thermally in parallel across a temperature differential to a p-type doped material, so that current flows between the two. Bismuth telluride based thermoelectric materials are very well suited for near room temperature applications, including wireless sensing. Through recent research supported by STFC, we have developed a new series of molecular precursor compounds which can be used in chemical vapour deposition to produce high quality thin films of (n-type) bismuth telluride and (p-type) antimony telluride. Unusually, our precursors and CVD-based system allows the materials to be deposited very selectively onto specific areas of lithographically patterned substrates. The focus of this project is to work closely with key stakeholders, including a thermoelectric device company and a specialist precursor manufacturer, to exploit the unique features of our precursors and CVD-based approach so that the production costs for manufacture of thermoelectric micro-generators can be reduced significantly. Since the actual production costs account for the majority of the unit cost per thermoelectric generator, reducing this is a high priority to allow penetration of these micro-generator devices into new and larger markets.

Validation and benchmarking of the key thermoelectric properties of our CVD-produced thermoelectric micro-generators is central to the work, and this will also provide the key data necessary to evaluate the prospect of using our CVD-based approach for TE micro-coolers for future applications such as on-chip cooling of microprocessors.
 
Description We have developed a series of reagents that can be used as single source CVD precursors to deliver the elements required to grow thin film p- and n-type metal chalcogenide semiconductors. Moreover, we have demonstrated the capability to use these reagents for the area selective CVD onto patterned structures, reducing the need for additional processing steps and requiring much less material. We have also found that deposition temperature and composition can allow optimisation of the thermoelectric properties exhibited.
Exploitation Route the approach and processes could be adopted by companies interested in the use of micro-thermoelectric generators for wireless sensing and IoT applications.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment

 
Description Some of our precursors are being used in collaboration with industry partners.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Energy
 
Description Deregallera 
Organisation Deregallera Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Contribution to a CASE PhD studentship to work on other thermoelectric materials
Collaborator Contribution Discussions, consultancy, attendance at workshops and meetings
Impact PhD studentship
Start Year 2017
 
Description Ilika 
Organisation Ilika
Department Ilika Technologies Ltd.
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Mutual interest in TE materials development
Collaborator Contribution Expertise and contributions to review meeting and workshops
Impact advancing work on micro-TEGs
Start Year 2016
 
Description Activities at SOTSEF 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact delivery of 'atoms and crystals' activities at annual Southampton Science and Engineering Festival in March 2019, comprising a range of hands on activities and the opportunity to discuss the wider relevance of the research project and its potential applications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Conference presentation at ICT2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of results from the research project via a presentation at ICT2018 in Caen; talk delivered by PDRA on project. The international audience comprised industrialists and academics, as well as researchers working in the field and spanning engineering and physical sciences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Energy Harvesting Materials and Devices Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A poster on some of the work done on the deposition of tin chalcogenide materials and their thermoelectric properties was presented. A number of different conversations with various participants on different approaches for them to enhance their research as well as my own.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UK Thermoelectric Network Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A number of talks were given on the advancement of thermoelectric materials and devices and several posters. The intended outcome was to maintain a strong unity within the thermoelectric community and share the work being undertaken around then UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UK Thermoelectrics Network Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at the EPSRC Thermoelectric Meeting, Manchester, February 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description talk at thermoelectrics workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact organisation of thermoelectrics workshop and presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description thermoelectrics workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact presentation at thermoelectric network meeting in Edinburgh
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018