Thermoelectric (TE) materials can convert temperature differences directly into electricity and are nowadays considered as one of the most promising means to produce “green” electricity from the huge amount of various available waste heat sources. TE conversion is
intrinsically simple, scalable and reliable, employs no moving parts and provides silent operation and self-sufficiency. Particular attention is given to transition metal oxides (TMOs), due to their low toxicity, natural abundance, thermal stability and well-established preparation routs, in contrast with traditional Pb-, Sb-, Bi- and Te-containing TE materials. Still, one of the TMOs major drawbacks are their low TE performances. This project intends to design, synthesize and test novel ceramic composite materials with improved TE performances, based on some of the best-performing TMOs to date, Ca3Co4O9, ZnO and CaMnO3 (matrices) and a set of transition metal and Ce oxides (dispersers), suited for practical high-temperature power generation applications. The originality of this project is simple and straightforward: Controlling the atomic interactions between the various oxide components will improve the charge carrier mobility and create additional interfaces at the grain boundaries, capable of scattering phonons more efficiently. The R&D work is based on the combined analysis of TE, morphological and structural properties of the matrix materials and prepared composites, with the final purpose of developing completely new materials having better TE properties than those of the inicial components, and testing them in and designing them for practical high-temperature power generation applications, in real working conditions. This project also focuses to establish the experienced researcher as a successful independent scientist, having more, diversified competences in and deeper understanding of functional electroceramics, capable also to establish fruitful collaborations and to attract funding.