Thermoelectric materials are engines that convert heat into an electrical current. Intuitively, the efficiency of this process depends on how many electrons (charge carriers) can move and how easily they do so, how much energy those moving electrons transport, and how easily the temperature gradient is maintained. In terms of material properties, an excellent thermoelectric material requires a high electrical conductivity σ, a high Seebeck coefficient S (a measure of the induced thermoelectric voltage as a function of temperature gradient), and a low thermal conductivity κ. The challenge is that these three properties are strongly interrelated in a conflicting manner (1). On page 722 of this issue, Roychowdhury et al. (2) have found a way to partially break these ties in silver antimony telluride (AgSbTe2) with the addition of cadmium (Cd) cations, which increase the ordering in this inherently disordered thermoelectric material.
Liu Y, Ibáñez M. Tidying up the mess. Science. 2021;371(6530):678-679. doi:10.1126/science.abg0886
Liu, Y., & Ibáñez, M. (2021). Tidying up the mess. Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg0886
Liu, Yu, and Maria Ibáñez. “Tidying up the Mess.” Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg0886.
Y. Liu and M. Ibáñez, “Tidying up the mess,” Science, vol. 371, no. 6530. American Association for the Advancement of Science, pp. 678–679, 2021.
Liu Y, Ibáñez M. 2021. Tidying up the mess. Science. 371(6530), 678–679.
Liu, Yu, and Maria Ibáñez. “Tidying up the Mess.” Science, vol. 371, no. 6530, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021, pp. 678–79, doi:10.1126/science.abg0886.