Tetradymites as thermoelectrics and topological insulators

Joseph P. Heremans, Robert J. Cava, Nitin Samarth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Tetradymites are M2X3 compounds-in which M is a group V metal, usually Bi or Sb, and X is a group VI anion, Te, Se or S-that crystallize in a rhombohedral structure. Bi2Se3, Bi2Te3 and Sb2Te3 are archetypical tetradymites. Other mixtures of M and X elements produce common variants, such as Bi2Te2 Se. Because tetradymites are based on heavy p-block elements, strong spin-orbit coupling greatly influences their electronic properties, both on the surface and in the bulk. Their surface electronic states are a cornerstone of frontier work on topological insulators. The bulk energy bands are characterized by small energy gaps, high group velocities, small effective masses and band inversion near the centre of the Brillouin zone. These properties are favourable for high-efficiency thermoelectric materials but make it difficult to obtain an electrically insulating bulk, which is a requirement of topological insulators. This Review outlines recent progress made in bulk and thin-film tetradymite materials for the optimization of their properties both as thermoelectrics and as topological insulators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17049
JournalNature Reviews Materials
StatePublished - Sep 5 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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