Decoupling electron and phonon transport in single-nanowire hybrid materials for high-performance thermoelectrics
Organic-inorganic hybrids have recently emerged as a class of high-performing thermoelectric materials that are lightweight and mechanically flexible. However, the fundamental electrical and thermal transport in these materials has remained elusive due to the heterogeneity of bulk, polycrystalline, thin films reported thus far. Here, we systematically investigate a model hybrid comprising a single core/shell nanowire of Te-PEDOT:PSS. We show that as the nanowire diameter is reduced, the electrical conductivity increases and the thermal conductivity decreases, while the Seebeck coefficient remains nearly constant—this collectively results in a figure of merit, ZT, of 0.54 at 400 K. The origin of the decoupling of charge and heat transport lies in the fact that electrical transport occurs through the organic shell, while thermal transport is driven by the inorganic core. This study establishes design principles for high-performing thermoelectrics that leverage the unique interactions occurring at the interfaces of hybrid nanowires.