Thermoelectric junctions made of semiconductors have existed in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) for deep space missions, but are currently being adapted for terrestrial energy harvesting. Unfortunately, these devices are inefficient, operating at only 7% efficiency. This low efficiency has driven efforts to make high-figure-of-merit thermoelectric devices, which require a high electrical conductivity but a low thermal conductivity, a combination that is difficult to achieve. Lowered thermal conductivity has increased efficiency, but at the cost of power output.
An alternative setup is to use metallic junctions rather than semiconductors as thermoelectric devices. Metals have orders of magnitude more electrons and electronic conductivities higher than semiconductors, but thermal conductivity is higher as well. To evaluate the viability of metallic junction thermoelectrics, a two dimensional heat transfer MATLAB simulation was constructed to calculate efficiency and power output. High Seebeck coefficient alloys, Chromel (90%Ni- 10%Cr) and Constantan (55%Cu-45%Ni), produced efficiencies of around 20-30%. Parameters such as the number of layers of junctions, lateral junction density, and junction sizes for both series- and parallel-connected junctions were explored.
Current best practice in epitaxial growth of rhombohedral SiGe onto (0001) sapphire (Al2O3) substrate surfaces requires extreme conditions to grow a single crystal SiGe film. Previous models described the sapphire surface reconstruction as the overriding factor in rhombohedral epitaxy, requiring a high temperature Al-terminated surface for high quality films. Temperatures in the 850-1100°C range were thought to be necessary to get SiGe to form coherent atomic matching between the (111) SiGe plane and the (0001) sapphire surface. Such fabrication conditions are difficult and uneconomical, hindering widespread application. This work proposes an alternative model that considers the bulk sapphire structure and determines how the SiGe film nucleates and grows. Accounting for thermal expansion effects, calculations using this new model show that both pure Ge and SiGe can form single crystal films in the 450-550°C temperature range. Experimental results confirm these predictions, where x-ray diffraction and atomic force microscopy show the films fabricated at low temperature rival the high temperature films in crystallographic and surface quality. Finally, an explanation is provided for why films of comparable high quality can be produced in either temperature range.
Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) running off the radioisotope Pu238 are the current standard in deep space probe power supplies. While reliable, these generators are very inefficient, operating at only ~7% efficiency. As an alternative, more efficient radioisotope thermionic emission generators (RTIGs) are being explored. Like RTGs, current RTIGs concepts use exotic materials for the emitter, limiting applicability to space and other niche applications. The high demand for long-lasting mobile power sources would be satisfied if RTIGs could be produced inexpensively. This work focuses on exposing several common materials, such as Al, stainless steel, W, Si, and Cu, to elevated temperatures under vacuum to determine the efficiency of each material as inexpensive replacements for thermoelectric materials.
Bi is the largest group V element and has a number of advantages in III-V semiconductor properties, such as bandgap reduction, spin-orbit coupling, a preserved electron mobility over III-V-N materials, and nearly ideal surfactant properties resulting in a surface smoothing effect on GaAs. However, the mechanism for this behavior is not well understood. Insight on the mechanism is obtained through study of the Bi-terminated GaAs surface morphology and atomic reconstructions produced via molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). Experimental scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) characterization of the Bi/GaAs surface reveal disordered (1x3), (2x3), and (4x3) reconstructions, often sharing the same reflective high-energy electron diffraction (RHEED) patterns. Roughness on the micron length scale decreases as the step widen, attributed to the concurrent increase of opposite direction step edges on the nanometer length scale. Corresponding cluster expansion, density functional theory (DFT), and Monte Carlo simulations all point to the stability of the disordered (4x3) reconstruction at finite temperature as observed in experimental STM. The effects of incorporated Bi are determined through epitaxial GaSbBi growth on GaSb with various Ga:Sb:Bi flux ratios. Biphasic surface droplets are observed with sub-droplets, facets, and substrate etching. Despite the rough growth front, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Rutherford backscatter (RBS) measurements show significant Bi incorporation of up to 12% into GaSb, along with a concurrent increase of background As concentration. This is attributed to a strain auto-compensation effect. Bi incorporation of up to 10% is observed for the highest Bi fluxes while maintaining low surface droplet density.
Previous work demonstrated for the first time the ability to epitaxially grow uniform single crystal diamond cubic SiGe (111) films on trigonal sapphire (0001) substrates. While SiGe (111) forms two possible crystallographic twins on sapphire (0001), films consisting primarily of one twin were produced on up to 99.95% of the total wafer area. This permits new bandgap engineering possibilities and improved group IV based devices that can exploit the higher carrier mobility in Ge compared to Si. Models are proposed on the epitaxy of such dissimilar crystal structures based on the energetic favorability of crystallographic twins and surface reconstructions.
This new method permits Ge (111) on sapphire (0001) epitaxy, rendering Ge an economically feasible replacement for Si in some applications, including higher efficiency Si/Ge/Si quantum well solar cells. Epitaxial SiGe films on sapphire showed a 280% increase in electron mobility and a 500% increase in hole mobility over single crystal Si. Moreover, Ge possesses a wider bandgap for solar spectrum conversion than Si, while the transparent sapphire substrate permits an inverted device structure, increasing the total efficiency to an estimated 30-40%, much higher than traditional Si solar cells. Hall Effect mobility measurements of the Ge layer in the Si/Ge/Si quantum well structure were performed to demonstrate the advantage in carrier mobility over a pure Si solar cell. Another application comes in the use of microelectromechanical devices technology, where high-resistivity Si is currently used as a substrate. Sapphire is a more resistive substrate and offers better performance via lower parasitic capacitance and higher film carrier mobility over the current Si-based technology.