Engineering materials with specific physical properties have recently focused on the effect of nanoscopic inhomogeneities at the 10 nm scale. Such features are expected to scatter medium- and long-wavelength phonons thereby lowering the thermal conductivity of the system. Low thermal conductivity is a prerequisite for effective thermoelectric materials, and the challenge is to limit the transport of heat by phonons, without simultaneously decreasing charge transport. A solution-phase technique was devised for synthesis of thermoelectric Zn4Sb3 nanocrystals as a precursor for phase segregation into ZnSb and a new Zn-Sb intermetallic phase, Zn 1+δSb, in a peritectoid reaction. Our approach uses activated metal nanoparticles as precursors for the synthesis of this intermetallic compound. The small particle size of the reactants ensures minimum diffusion paths, low activation barriers, and low reaction temperatures, thereby eliminating solid-solid diffusion as the rate-limiting step in conventional bulk-scale solid-state synthesis. Both phases were identified and structurally characterized by automated electron diffraction tomography combined with precession electron diffraction. An ab initio structure solution based on electron diffraction data revealed two different phases. The new pseudo-hexagonal phase, Zn1+δSb, was identified and classified within the structural diversity of the Zn-Sb phase diagram.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry