In order to explain the unique thermoelectric properties of bulk nanocomposite p-type bismuth antimony telluride, its structural and electrical properties are investigated using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and atomic force microscopy with a conductive probe (C-AFM). The material is observed to contain both nano- and micro-sized grains with sizes varying from 10 nm to 3 m. This unique structure promotes phonon scattering, thereby decreasing the thermal conductivity to below 1 W mK -1 at room temperature. Moreover, the C-AFM data show that the electrical conductivity of nanosized grains is higher than the bulk value and reaches 1600 S cm -1. This results in a moderate increment of the overall electrical conductivity, thereby increasing the figure of merit (ZT) up to 1.4 at 100 °C. In addition to demonstrating a powerful scanning probe microscopy (SPM) based investigation technique that requires minimal sample preparation, our findings contribute towards better understanding of the enhancement of thermoelectric properties of nanocomposite thermoelectric materials.
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