L. P. Bulat, D. A. Pshenai-Severin, I. A. Nefedova, A. V. Novotelnova, Y. G. Gurevich

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Problem statement. Improvement of thermoelectric figure of merit is connected with the usage of nanostructured thermoelectric materials fabricated from powders by the spark plasma sintering (SPS) method.  Preservation of powder nanostructure during sintering is possible at optimum temperature modes of thermoelectrics fabrication. The choice of these modes becomes complicated because of anisotropic properties of semiconductor thermoelectric materials. The decision of the given problem by sintering process simulation demands the competent approach to the problem formulation, a correct specification of thermoelectric properties, the properties of materials forming working installation, and also corrects boundary conditions. The paper deals with the efficient model for sintering of thermoelectrics. Methods.  Sintering process of the bismuth telluride thermoelectric material by means of SPS-511S installation is considered. Temperature dependences of electric and thermal conductivities of bismuth telluride, and also temperature dependences of installation elements materials are taken into account. It is shown that temperature distribution in the sample can be defined within the limits of a stationary problem. The simulation is carried out in the software product Comsol Multiphysics. Boundary conditions include convective heat exchange and also radiation under Stefan-Boltzmann law. Results. Computer simulation of electric and thermal processes at spark plasma sintering is carried out. Temperature and electric potential distributions in a sample are obtained at the sintering conditions. Determinative role of graphite compression mould in formation of the temperature field in samples is shown. The influence of geometrical sizes of a graphite compression mould on sintering conditions of nanostructured thermoelectrics is analyzed. Practical importance. The optimum sizes of a cylindrical compression mould for fabrication of volume homogeneous samples based on bismuth telluride are determined. Ways of updating for the sintering process are shown giving the possibility to fabricating thermoelectric samples with predicted properties.

Keywords:  spark plasma sintering, thermoelectric materials, nanostructures, computer simulation, thermoelectric figure of merit, thermal conductivity, thermal and electric fields

Acknowledgements. The work is supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (grant № 14.579.0039 and task № 3.912.2014/К).

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