Even though the crystal structure of lead telluride (PbTe) has been extensively studied for many years, we discovered that the structure has a strong tendency to form Pb-depleted disks on 001 planes. These disks are around 2–5 nm in diameter and less than 0.5 nm in thickness, with a volume density of around 9 × 1017 cm−3, resulting in lattice strain fields (3–20 nm) on both sides of the disks along their normal directions. Moreover, such disks were also observed in Pb-rich Pb1.3Te, Pb-deficient PbTe1.3, and thallium (Tl)-doped Tl0.01Pb0.99Te and Tl0.02Pb0.98Te crystals. Because of the effects of diffraction contrast imaging by transmission electron microscopy and orientations of the crystals, these native lattice strain fields were incorrectly recognized as precipitates or nanoinclusions in PbTe-based materials. This discovery provides new insight into the formation mechanism of the precipitates or nanoinclusions in PbTe-based materials.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
D. Greig: Thermoelectricity and thermal conductivity in the lead sulfide group of semiconductors. Phys. Rev. 120, 358 (1960).
H.A. Lyden: Temperature dependence of the effective masses in PbTe. Phys. Rev. 135, A514 (1964).
G.J. Snyder and E.S. Toberer: Complex thermoelectric materials. Nat. Mater. 7, 105 (2008).
M.G. Kanatzidis: Nanostructured thermoelectrics: The new paradigm? Chem. Mater. 22, 648 (2010).
K.F. Hsu, S. Loo, F. Guo, W. Chen, J.S. Dyck, C. Uher, T. Hogan, E.K. Polychroniadis, and M.G. Kanatzidis: Cubic AgPbmSbTe2+m: Bulk thermoelectric materials with high figure of merit. Science 303, 818 (2004).
P.F.P. Poudeu, J.D. Angelo, A.D. Downey, J.L. Short, T.P. Hogan, and M.G. Kanatzidis: High thermoelectric figure of merit and nanostructuring in bulk p-type Na1-xPbmSbyTem+2. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 45, 3835 (2006).
M. Zhou, J.-F. Li, and T. Kita: Nanostructured AgPbmSbTem+2 system bulk materials with enhanced thermoelectric performance. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 4527 (2008).
M. Muhlberg and D. Hesse: TEM precipitation studies in Te-rich as-grown PbTe single crystals. Phys. Status Solidi A Appl. Res. 76, 513 (1983).
W.W. Scanlon: Precipitation of Te and Pb in PbTe crystals. Phys. Rev. 126, 509 (1962).
G.Y. Wang, T.S. Shi, and S.Y. Zhang: Microdefects in Te-rich PbTe bulk crystal. Chin. Phys. Lett. 12, 469 (1995).
H. Wang, J.-F. Li, and T. Kita: Thermoelectric enhancement at low temperature in nonstoichiometric lead-telluride compounds. J. Phys. D Appl. Phys. 40, 6839 (2007).
G. Bauer, H. Burkhard, H. Heinrich, and A. Lopez-Otero: Impurity and vacancy states in PbTe. J. Appl. Phys. 47, 1721 (1976).
X.Z. Ke, C.F. Chen, J.H. Yang, L.J. Wu, J. Zhou, Q. Li, Y.M. Zhu, and P.R.C. Kent: Microstructure and a nucleation mechanism for nanoprecipitates in PbTe-AgSbTe2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 145502 (2009).
M.S. Dresselhaus, G. Chen, M.Y. Tang, R.G. Yang, H. Lee, D.Z. Wang, Z.F. Ren, J.-P. Fleurial, and P. Gogna: New directions for low-dimensional thermoelectric materials. Adv. Mater. 19, 1043 (2007).
B. Poudel, Q. Hao, Y. Ma, Y.C. Lan, A. Minnich, B. Yu, X. Yan, D.Z. Wang, A. Muto, D. Vashaee, X.Y. Chen, J.M. Liu, M.S. Dresselhaus, G. Chen, and Z.F. Ren: High-thermoelectric performance of nanostructured bismuth antimony telluride bulk alloys. Science 320, 634 (2008).
X.W. Wang, H. Lee, Y.C. Lan, G.H. Zhu, G. Joshi, D.Z. Wang, J. Yang, A.J. Muto, M.Y. Tang, J. Klatsky, S. Song, M.S. Dresselhaus, G. Chen, and Z.F. Ren: Enhanced thermoelectric figure of merit in nanostructured n-type silicon germanium bulk alloy. Appl. Phys. Lett. 93, 193121 (2008).
D.B. Williams and C.B. Carter: Transmission Electron Microscopy (Springer, New York, 1996), Vol. 3, p. 417.
M.P. Gomez, D.A. Stevenson, and R.A. Huggins: Self-diffusion of Pb and Te in lead telluride. J. Phys. Chem. Solids. 32, 335 (1971).
T.D. George and J.B. Wagner: Tracer diffusion of lead in lead telluride. J. Appl. Phys. 42, 220 (1971).
S.J. Pennycook: Atomic-scale imaging of materials by Z-contrast scanning transmission electron microscopy. Anal. Chem. 64(4), 263 (1992).
J.P. Heremans, V. Jovovic, E.S. Toberer, A. Saramat, K. Kurosaki, A. Charoenphakdee, S. Yamanaka, and G.J. Snyder: Enhancement of thermoelectric efficiency in PbTe by distortion of the electronic density of states. Science. 321, 554 (2008).
J.Q. He, A. Gueguen, J.R. Sootsman, J.-C. Zheng, L.J. Wu, Y.M. Zhu, M.G. Kanatzidis, and V.P. Dravid: Role of self-organization, nanostructuring, and lattice strain on phonon transport in NaPb18-xSnxBiTe20 thermoelectric materials. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 17828 (2009).
B.A. Cook, M.J. Kramer, J.L. Harringa, M.-K. Han, D.Y. Chung, and M.G. Kanatzidis: Analysis of nanostructuring in high figure-of-merit Ag1-xPbmSbTe2+m thermoelectric materials. Adv. Funct. Mater. 19, 1254 (2009).
The work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under award no. DE-FG02-08ER46516 (G.C. and Z.F.R.).
About this article
Cite this article
Wang, H., Zhang, Q., Yu, B. et al. Transmission electron microscopy study of Pb-depleted disks in PbTe-based alloys. Journal of Materials Research 26, 912–916 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1557/jmr.2010.96