Journal of Materials Research


Oxide thermoelectrics: The challenges, progress, and outlook

Jian Hea1 c1, Yufei Liua1 and Ryoji Funahashia2

a1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, 29634-0978

a2 Nanotechnology Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Ikeda, Osaka 563-8577, Japan; and CREST, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Sanbancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0075, Japan


Most state-of-the-art thermoelectric (TE) materials contain heavy elements Bi, Pb, Sb, or Te and exhibit maximum figure of merit, ZT∼1–2. On the other hand, oxides were believed to make poor TEs because of the low carrier mobility and high lattice thermal conductivity. That is why the discoveries of good p-type TE properties in layered cobaltites NaxCoO2, Ca4Co3O9, and Bi2Sr2Co2O9, and promising n-type TE properties in CaMnO3- and SrTiO3-based perovskites and doped ZnO, broke new ground in thermoelectrics study. The past two decades have witnessed more than an order of magnitude enhancement in ZT of oxides. In this article, we briefly review the challenges, progress, and outlook of oxide TE materials in their different forms (bulk, epitaxial film, superlattice, and nanocomposites), with a greater focus on the nanostructuring approach and the late development of the oxide-based TE module.

(Received January 17 2011)

(Accepted March 28 2011)

Key Words:

  • Thermoelectricity;
  • Oxide;
  • Nanostructure


c1 Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail:


This section of Journal of Materials Research is reserved for papers that are reviews of literature in a given area.