Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Barry L. Zink


Micro-Machined Devices, Seebeck Coefficient, Thermoelectrics, Thin Films


The worlds demand for energy is ever increasing. Likewise, the environmental impact of climate change due generating that energy through combustion of fossil fuels is increasingly alarming. Due to these factors new sources of renewable energies are constantly being sought out. Thermoelectric devices have the ability to generate clean, renewable, energy out of waste heat. However promising that is, their inefficiency severely inhibits applicability and practical use. The usefulness of a thermoelectric material increases with the dimensionless quantity, ZT, which depends on the Seebeck coefficient and electrical and thermal conductivity. These characteristic material parameters have interdependent energy transport contributions that classically prohibit the optimization of one with out the detriment of another. Encouraging advancements of ZT have occurred in the past ten years due to the decoupling of the thermal and electrical conductivity. Further advancements are necessary in order to produce applicable devices. One auspicious way of decoupling or tuning energy transport properties, is through size reduction to the nanoscale. However, with reduced dimensions come complications in measuring material properties. Measurements of properties such as the Seebeck coefficient, S, are primarily contingent upon the measurement apparatus. The Seebeck coefficient is defined as the amount of voltage generated by a thermal gradient. Measuring a thermally generated voltage by traditional methods gives, the voltage measured as a linear function of the Seebeck coefficient of the leads and of the material being tested divided by the applied thermal gradient. If accurate values of the Seebeck coefficients of the leads are available, simple subtraction provides the answer. This is rarely the case in nanoscale measurement devices with leads exclusively made from thin film materials that do not have well known bulk-like thermopower values. We have developed a technique to directly measure, S, as a function of temperature using a micro-machined thermal isolation platform consisting of a suspended, patterned SiN membrane. By measuring a series of thicknesses of metallic films up to the infinitely thin film limit, in which the electrical resistivity is no longer decreasing with increasing film thickness, but still not at bulk values, along with the effective electron mean free path, we are able to show the contribution of the leads needed to measure this property. Having a comprehensive understanding of the background contribution we are able to determine the absolute Seebeck coefficient of a wide variety of thin films. The nature of the design of the SiN membrane also allows the ability to accurately and directly measure thermal and electrical transport of the thin films yielding a comprehensive measurement of the three quantities that characterize a material's efficiency. This can serve to further the development of thermoelectric materials through precise measurements of the material properties that dictate efficiency


Recieved from ProQuest

Rights holder

Sarah Mason

File size

135 p.

File format





Condensed matter physics