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lead telluride (CAS Registry number: 1314-91-6) is a compound of lead and tellurium that is a narrow-gap semiconductor. It is often alloyed with tin to make lead tin telluride, which is used in infrared detectors and other sensors. It also has good performance as a thermoelectric material, partly due to its low thermal conductivity. It occurs naturally as the mineral altaite.
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the thermoelectric properties of simple binary lead telluride alloys, as well as pure PbTe single crystals. A large improvement in the optimization of their peak zT has been achieved, which has been attributed to both improved understanding of the band structure and the use of modern thermal diffusivity measurements for the determination of the ideal dopant concentration.
The physics of the energy transfer mechanisms in PbTe is still relatively poorly understood. It has been shown, however, that the figure of merit of the material is very sensitive to the grain size. In addition, it has been found that the normal modes of vibration in PbTe can be characterized by inelastic neutron scattering techniques. The results can be fit by both rigid ion models and shell models that take into account the polarizability of the lead ions.
Exposure to dust or fumes of lead telluride may cause irritation of the skin and eyes. Chronic exposure may result in nephrotoxicity and hematologic effects. Lead compounds are suspected carcinogens and have been linked to reproductive toxicity, especially in men.