Doping and Density of States Engineering for Organic Thermoelectrics

Abstract: Thermoelectric materials can turn temperature differences directly into electricity. To use this to harvest e.g. waste heat with an efficiency that approaches the Carnot efficiency requires a figure of merit ZT larger than 1. Compared with their inorganic counterparts, organic thermoelectrics (OTE) have numerous advantages, such as low cost, large-area compatibility, flexibility, material abundance and an inherently low thermal conductivity. Therefore, organic thermoelectrics are considered by many to be a promising candidate material system to be used in lower cost and higher efficiency thermoelectric energy conversion, despite record ZT values for OTE currently lying around 0.25.A complete organic thermoelectric generator (TEG) normally needs both p-type and n-type materials to form its electric circuit. Molecular doping is an effective way to achieve p- and ntype materials using different dopants, and it is necessary to fundamentally understand the doping mechanism. We developed a simple yet quantitative analytical model and compare it with numerical kinetic Monte Carlo simulations to reveal the nature of the doping effect. The results show the formation of a deep tail in the Gaussian density of states (DOS) resulting from the Coulomb potentials of ionized dopants. It is this deep trap tail that negatively influences the charge carrier mobility with increasing doping concentration. The trends in mobilities and conductivities observed from experiments are in good agreement with the modeling results, for a large range of materials and doping concentrations.Having a high power factor PF is necessary for efficient TEG. We demonstrate that the doping method can heavily impact the thermoelectric properties of OTE. In comparison to conventional bulk doping, sequential doping can achieve higher conductivity by preserving the morphology, such that the power factor can improve over 100 times. To achieve TEG with high output power, not only a high PF is needed, but also having a significant active layer thickness is very important. We demonstrate a simple way to fabricate multi-layer devices by sequential doping without significantly sacrificing PF.In addition to the application discussed above, harvesting large amounts of heat at maximum efficiency, organic thermoelectrics may also find use in low-power applications like autonomous sensors where voltage is more important than power. A large output voltage requires a high Seebeck coefficient. We demonstrate that density of states (DOS) engineering is an effective tool to increase the Seebeck coefficient by tailoring the positions of the Fermi energy and the transport energy in n- and p-type doped blends of conjugated polymers and small molecules.In general, morphology heavily impacts the performance of organic electronic devices based on mixtures of two (or more) materials, and organic thermoelectrics are no exception. We experimentally find that the charge and energy transport is distinctly different in well-mixed and phase separated morphologies, which we interpreted in terms of a variable range hopping model. The experimentally observed trends in conductivity and Seebeck coefficient are reproduced by kinetic Monte Carlo simulations in which the morphology is accounted for.  

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