Increasing the thermoelectric power factor of polymer composites using a semiconducting stabilizer for carbon nanotubes
Poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAc) copolymer latex-based composites were prepared with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT), stabilized with sodium deoxycholate (DOC) or meso-tetra(4-carboxyphenyl) porphine (TCPP). SEM images show that a segregated MWCNT network developed during drying, which resulted in relatively low percolation thresholds (1.62 and 2.17 wt.% MWCNT for DOC and TCPP, respectively). The electrical conductivity (σ) of TCPP-stabilized composites is very similar to that of DOC-stabilized, while the thermopower (or Seebeck coefficient (S)) is five times as large. This enhanced thermopower suggests the MWCNT:TCPP/PVAc composite will have an order of magnitude greater power factor (S2σ), which is an important measure of efficiency for thermoelectric materials (i.e., materials capable of converting a thermal gradient to a voltage). The thermal conductivity of these composites remains comparable to typical polymeric materials due to numerous tube–tube connections that act as phonon scattering centers. The universality of this approach was confirmed using much more electrically conductive double-walled carbon nanotube-filled composites that showed similar improvement with TCPP stabilization. It is possible that other porphyrin derivatives, or semiconducting molecules capable of stabilizing nanotubes in water, could be used to further enhance the Seebeck coefficient and improve the ability of these composites to convert waste heat into electricity.
Moriarty, GP; Wheeler, JN; Yu, CH; Grunlan, JC; Carbon 2012, 50 (3), 885-895.