Peltier cooling in molecular junctions

Prof. Juan Carlos Cuevas has been in Konstanz for 2x6 months as Mercator Fellow of the SFB767. This is a paper related to the fellowship, where a calorimetry technique with picowatt sensitivity enables the experimental observation of cooling in molecular junctions.

Abstract: The study of thermoelectricity in molecular junctions is of fundamental interest for the development of various technologies including cooling (refrigeration) and heat-to-electricity conversion. Recent experimental progress in probing the thermopower (Seebeck effect) of molecular junctions has enabled studies of the relationship between thermoelectricity and molecular structure. However, observations of Peltier cooling in molecular junctions—a critical step for establishing molecular-based refrigeration—have remained inaccessible. Here, we report direct experimental observations of Peltier cooling in molecular junctions. By integrating conducting-probe atomic force microscopy with custom-fabricated picowatt-resolution calorimetric microdevices, we created an experimental platform that enables the unified characterization of electrical, thermoelectric and energy dissipation characteristics of molecular junctions. Using this platform, we studied gold junctions with prototypical molecules (Au–biphenyl-4,4′-dithiol–Au, Au–terphenyl-4,4′′-dithiol–Au and Au–4,4′-bipyridine–Au) and revealed the relationship between heating or cooling and charge transmission characteristics. Our experimental conclusions are supported by self-energy-corrected density functional theory calculations. We expect these advances to stimulate studies of both thermal and thermoelectric transport in molecular junctions where the possibility of extraordinarily efficient energy conversion has been theoretically predicted. 

Longji Cui, Ruijiao Miao, Kun Wang, Dakotah Thompson, Linda Angela Zotti, Juan Carlos Cuevas, Edgar Meyhofer and Pramod Reddy
Nature Nanotechnology 13, 122-127 (2018)
DOI: 10.1038/s41565-017-0020-z