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Rapid Microwave Preparation of Thermoelectric TiNiSn and TiCoSb Half-Heusler Compounds

American Chemical Society
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The 18-electron ternary intermetallic systems TiNiSn and TiCoSb are promising for applications as high-temperature thermoelectrics and comprise earth-abundant, and relatively nontoxic elements. Heusler and half-Heusler compounds are usually prepared by conventional solid state methods involving arc-melting and annealing at high temperatures for an extended period of time. Here, we report an energy-saving preparation route using a domestic microwave oven, reducing the reaction time significantly from more than a week to one minute. A microwave susceptor material rapidly heats the elemental starting materials inside an evacuated quartz tube resulting in near single phase compounds. The initial preparation is followed by a densification step involving hot-pressing, which reduces the amount of secondary phases, as verified by synchrotron X-ray diffraction, leading to the desired half-Heusler compounds, demonstrating that hot-pressing should be treated as part of the preparative process. For TiNiSn, high thermoelectric power factors of 2 mW/mK^2 at temperatures in the 700 to 800 K range, and zT values of around 0.4 are found, with the microwave-prepared sample displaying somewhat superior properties to conventionally prepared half-Heuslers due to lower thermal conductivity. The TiCoSb sample shows a lower thermoelectric figure of merit when prepared using microwave methods because of a metallic second phase.

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