Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Xiulin Ruan

Committee Chair

Xiulin Ruan

Committee Member 1

Amy Marconnet

Committee Member 2

Xianfan Xu


Thermoelectric materials are able to convert energy between heat and electricity with no moving parts, making them very appealing for power generation purposes. This is particularly appealing since many forms of energy generation lose energy to waste heat. The Livermore National Laboratory estimates that up to 55% of the energy created in traditional power plants is lost through heat generation [1]. As greenhouse gas emissions become a more important issue, large sources of waste like this will need to be harnessed. ^ Adoption of these materials has been limited due to the cost and efficiency of current technology. Bismuth telluride based alloys have a dimensionless figure of merit, a measure of efficiency, near one at room temperature, which makes it the best current material. In order to compete with other forms of energy generation, this needs to be increased to three or higher [2]. Recently, improvements in performance have come in the form of random nanostructured materials [3]. Bulk bismuth telluride is subjected to particle size reduction via high-energy ball milling in order to scatter phonons between grains. This reduces the lattice thermal conductivity which in turn increases the performance of the material. ^ In this work, we investigate the use of low-energy ball milling as a method of creating nanoparticles of n-type and p-type Bi2Te3 alloys for thermoelectric applications. Optimization of parameters such as milling containers, milling media, contamination and milling time has resulted in creating 15nm particles of bismuth telluride alloys. After creating solid pellets of the resulting powders via hot pressing, the material's thermal and electrical conductivities as well as Seebeck coefficients were measured. The ZT of n-type Bi2Te2.7Se3 created using this method is 0.32, while the p-type Bi0.5Sb1.5Te3 exhibits a higher ZT of 1.24, both at room temperature.