Thermoelectric (TE) material is a class of materials that can convert heat to electrical energy directly in a solid-state-device without any moving parts and that is environmentally friendly. The study and development of TE materials have grown quickly in the past decade. However, their development goes slowly by the lack of cheap TE materials with high Seebeck coefficient and good electrical conductivity. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are particularly attractive as TE materials because of at least three reasons: (1) CNTs possess various band gaps depending on their structure, (2) CNTs represent unique one-dimensional carbon materials which naturally satisfies the conditions of quantum confinement effect to enhance the TE efficiency and (3) CNTs provide us with a platform for developing lightweight and flexible TE devices due to their mechanical properties. The TE power factor is reported to reach 700–1000 μ
for both p-type and n-type CNTs when purified to contain only doped semiconducting CNT species. Therefore, CNTs are promising for a variety of TE applications in which the heat source is unlimited, such as waste heat or solar heat although their figure of merit
is still modest (0.05 at 300 K). In this paper, we review in detail from the basic concept of TE field to the fundamental TE properties of CNTs, as well as their applications. Furthermore, the strategies are discussed to improve the TE properties of CNTs. Finally, we give our perspectives on the tremendous potential of CNTs-based TE materials and composites.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited