Metal phosphides as potential thermoelectric materials
There still exists a crucial need for new thermoelectric materials to efficiently recover waste heat as electrical energy. Although metal phosphides are stable and can exhibit excellent electronic properties, they have traditionally been overlooked as thermoelectrics due to expectations of displaying high thermal conductivity. Based on high-throughput computational screening of the electronic properties of over 48 000 inorganic compounds, we find that several metal phosphides offer considerable promise as thermoelectric materials, with excellent potential electronic properties (e.g. due to multiple valley degeneracy). In addition to the electronic band structure, the phonon dispersion curves of various metal phosphides were computed indicating low-frequency acoustic modes that could lead to low thermal conductivity. Several metal phosphides exhibit promising thermoelectric properties. The computed electronic and thermal properties were compared to experiments to test the reliability of the calculations indicating that the predicted thermoelectric properties are semi-quantitative. As a complete experimental study of the thermoelectric properties in MPs, cubic-NiP2 was synthesized and the low predicted lattice thermal conductivity (∼1.2 W m−1 K−1 at 700 K) was confirmed. The computed Seebeck coefficient is in agreement with experiments over a range of temperatures and the phononic dispersion curve of c-NiP2 is consistent with the experimental heat capacity. The predicted high thermoelectric performance in several metal phosphides and the low thermal conductivity measured in NiP2 encourage further investigations of thermoelectric properties of metal phosphides.