Direct energy conversion between heat and electrical energy based on thermoelectric effects is attractive for potential applications in waste heat recovery and environmentally-friendly refrigeration. The energy conversion efficiency depends on the dimensionless figure of merit of thermoelectric materials, ZT, which is proportional to the electrical conductivity, the square of the Seebeck coefficient, and the inverse of the thermal conductivity. Currently, the low ZT values of available materials restrict the applications of this technology. However, significant enhancements in ZT were recently reported in nanostructured materials such as superlattices mainly due to their low thermal conductivities. According to recent studies, the reduced thermal conductivity of nanostructures is attributed to the large number of interfaces at which phonons are scattered. Based on this idea, nanocomposites are expected to have a lower thermal conductivity than their bulk counterparts with low fabrication cost just by mixing nano sized particles. In this work, we will discuss mechanisms of thermoelectric transport via modeling and provide experimental evidence on the enhancement of thermoelectric figure of merit in SiGe-based nanocomposites.

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