"Significant Phonon Drag Enables High Power Factor in the AlGaN/GaN Two-Dimensional Electron Gas"

Ananth Saran Yalamarthy: Miguel Muñoz Rojo, Alexandra Bruefach, Derrick Boone, Karen M. Dowling, Peter F. Satterthwaite, David Goldhaber-Gordon, Eric Pop and Debbie G. Senesk; Nano Letters, 06/12/19.

Additional Authors: Miguel Muñoz Rojo, Alexandra Bruefach, Derrick Boone, Karen M. Dowling, Peter F. Satterthwaite, David Goldhaber-Gordon, Eric Pop and Debbie G. Senesk

Abstract:

In typical thermoelectric energy harvesters and sensors, the Seebeck effect is caused by diffusion of electrons or holes in a temperature gradient. However, the Seebeck effect can also have a phonon drag component, due to momentum exchange between charge carriers and lattice phonons, which is more difficult to quantify. Here, we present the first study of phonon drag in the AlGaN/GaN two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG). We find that phonon drag does not contribute significantly to the thermoelectric behavior of devices with ∼100 nm GaN thickness, which suppresses the phonon mean free path. However, when the thickness is increased to ∼1.2 μm, up to 32% (88%) of the Seebeck coefficient at 300 K (50 K) can be attributed to the drag component. In turn, the phonon drag enables state-of-the-art thermoelectric power factor in the thicker GaN film, up to ∼40 mW m−1 K−2 at 50 K. By measuring the thermal conductivity of these AlGaN/GaN films, we show that the magnitude of the phonon drag can increase even when the thermal conductivity decreases. Decoupling of thermal conductivity and Seebeck coefficient could enable important advancements in thermoelectric power conversion with devices based on 2DEGs.