Toward high-energy-density, high-efficiency, and moderate-temperature chip-scale thermophotovoltaics

Research Laboratory of Electronics, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Department of Physics, Center for Materials Science and Engineering, and Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 02/2013; 110(14). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1301004110
Source: PubMed


The challenging problem of ultra-high-energy-density, high-efficiency, and small-scale portable power generation is addressed here using a distinctive thermophotovoltaic energy conversion mechanism and chip-based system design, which we name the microthermophotovoltaic (μTPV) generator. The approach is predicted to be capable of up to 32% efficient heat-to-electricity conversion within a millimeter-scale form factor. Although considerable technological barriers need to be overcome to reach full performance, we have performed a robust experimental demonstration that validates the theoretical framework and the key system components. Even with a much-simplified μTPV system design with theoretical efficiency prediction of 2.7%, we experimentally demonstrate 2.5% efficiency. The μTPV experimental system that was built and tested comprises a silicon propane microcombustor, an integrated high-temperature photonic crystal selective thermal emitter, four 0.55-eV GaInAsSb thermophotovoltaic diodes, and an ultra-high-efficiency maximum power-point tracking power electronics converter. The system was demonstrated to operate up to 800 °C (silicon microcombustor temperature) with an input thermal power of 13.7 W, generating 344 mW of electric power over a 1-cm(2) area.

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Available from: Ivan Celanovic, Jan 03, 2014
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    • "The low experimental overall efficiency is mostly due to low TPV conversion efficiency (radiator to electricity) [4] [10] [11]. In particular, Datas and Algora [11] pointed out that the low TPV conversion efficiency is largely caused by thermal losses leading to an overheating of the cell. "
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    ABSTRACT: Optimal radiator thermal emission spectra maximizing thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion efficiency and output power density are determined when temperature effects in the cell are considered. To do this, a framework is designed in which a TPV model that accounts for radiative, electrical and thermal losses is coupled with a genetic algorithm. The TPV device under study involves a spectrally selective radiator at a temperature of 2000 K, a gallium antimonide cell, and a cell thermal management system characterized by a fluid temperature and a heat transfer coefficient of 293 K and 600 Wm-2K-1. It is shown that a maximum conversion efficiency of 38.8% is achievable with an emission spectrum that has emissivity of unity between 0.719 eV and 0.763 eV and zero elsewhere. This optimal spectrum is less than half of the width of those when thermal losses are neglected. A maximum output power density of 41708 Wm-2 is achievable with a spectrum having emissivity values of unity between 0.684 eV and 1.082 eV and zero elsewhere when thermal losses are accounted for. These emission spectra are shown to greatly outperform blackbody and tungsten radiators, and could be obtained using artificial structures such as metamaterials or photonic crystals.
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    • "However, for most available temperature, lower bandgap materials like GaInAsSb/GaSb cells with high external quantum efficiencies are preferred, and have been successfully fabricated using organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy[52,53]. At the system level, it has been shown that 1D photonic crystal structures can be successfully integrated into millimeter-scale TPV systems , yielding higher efficiency than graybody emitter controls under equal thermal inputs, whether they be combustible fuels or solar heat[54,55]. On the other hand, high system efficiencies for converting heat into electricity, much less closely approaching the Shockley–Queisser limit, have yet to be achieved. "
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    ABSTRACT: Thermophotovoltaics convert heat into electricity via thermal radiation. The efficiency of this process depends critically on the selective emitter, which can be controlled by both the choice of the material and the emitter design. We find that surveying the set of refractory and near-refractory metals yields four primary candidates: tungsten, chromium, tantalum, and molybdenum. We developed a simulation tool known as TPVtest to consider the performance of each of these candidates. Tungsten yields the highest efficiencies at 35.20% at a temperature of 1573 K. However, molybdenum comes very close to this performance at 35.12% at the same temperature. Additionally, it presents the highest efficiency of 26.15% at the same temperature for a bandgap of 1.1 eV, as found in crystalline silicon. Furthermore, it may be possible to achieve improvements beyond the efficiencies quoted here by employing composite materials and advanced photovoltaic design concepts.
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    ABSTRACT: Narrow-bandgap (<0.25 eV) photovoltaic (PV) devices are demonstrated at room temperature and above. These PV devices are based on interband cascade (IC) structures and can achieve a high open-circuit voltage (∼0.65 V at 300 K) that significantly exceeds the single bandgap limited value. This work demonstrates the capabilities and advantages of ICPV devices designed to effectively convert long wavelength (>5 μm) infrared photons from relatively low-temperature radiation sources (<1000 K) into electricity. Detailed characteristics of these PV devices are presented and discussed.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Applied Physics Letters
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