Network theory for inhomogeneous thermoelectrics

The Onsager–de Groot–Callen transport theory, implemented as a network model, is used to simulate the transient Harman method, which is widely used experimentally to determine all thermoelectric transport coefficients in a single measurement setup. It is shown that this method systematically overestimates the Seebeck coefficient for samples composed of two different materials. As a consequence, the figure of merit is also overestimated, if the thermal coupling of the measurement setup to the environment is weak. For a mixture of metal and semiconductor particles near metal percolation the figure of merit obtained by the Harman method is more than 100% too large. For a correct interpretation of the experimental data, information on composition and microstructure of the sample are indispensable.

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