Abstract: The population of all non-equilibrium lattice defects in materials is referred to as microstructure. Examples are point defects such as substitutional and interstitial atoms, and vacancies; line defects such as dislocations; planar defects such as interfaces and stacking faults; or mesoscopic defects such as second-phase precipitates. These types of lattice imperfections are usually described in terms of their structural features, breaking the periodicity of the otherwise regular crystalline structure. Recent analytical probing at the nanoscale has revealed that their chemical features are likewise important and characteristic. The structure of the defects as well as their individual chemical composition, that is their chemical decoration state, which results from elemental partitioning with the adjacent matrix, can significantly influence the electrical and thermal transport properties of thermoelectric materials. The emergence of atom probe tomography (APT) has now made routinely accessible the mapping of three-dimensional chemical composition with sub-nanometer spatial accuracy and elemental sensitivity in the range of tens of ppm. Here, we review APT-based investigations and results related to the local chemical decoration states of various types of lattice defects in thermoelectric materials. APT allows to better understand the interplay between thermoelectric properties and microstructural features, extending the concept of defect engineering to the field of segregation engineering so as to guide the rational design of high-performance thermoelectric materials.

Revealing nano-chemistry at lattice defects in thermoelectric materials using atom probe tomography


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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2019.11.010