A Tunable Structural Family with Ultralow Thermal Conductivity: Copper-Deficient Cu1-x square xPb1-xBi1+xS3

Krishnendu Maji, Marco Fornari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the mechanism that connects heat transport with crystal structures and order/disorder phenomena is crucial to develop materials with ultralow thermal conductivity (κ), for thermoelectric and thermal barrier applications, and requires the study of highly pure materials. We synthesized the n-Type sulfide CuPbBi5S9 with an ultralow κ value of 0.6-0.4 W m-1 K-1 in the temperature range 300-700 K. In contrast to prior studies, we show that this synthetic sulfide does not exhibit the ordered gladite mineral structure but instead forms a copper-deficient disordered aikinite structure with partial Pb replacement by Bi, according to the chemical formula Cu1/3â 2/3Pb1/3Bi5/3S3. By combining experiments and lattice dynamics calculations, we elucidated that the ultralow κ value of this compound is due to very low energy optical modes associated with Pb and Bi ions and, to a smaller extent, Cu. This vibrational complexity at low energy hints at substantial anharmonic effects that contribute to enhance phonon scattering. Importantly, we show that this aikinite-Type sulfide, despite being a poor semiconductor, is a potential matrix for designing novel, efficient n-Type thermoelectric compounds with ultralow κ values. A drastic improvement in the carrier concentration and thermoelectric figure of merit have been obtained upon Cl for S and Bi for Pb substitution. The Cu1-xâ xPb1-xBi1+xS3 series provides a new, interesting structural prototype for engineering n-Type thermoelectric sulfides by controlling disorder and optimizing doping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1846-1860
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


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