Laboratory Notes

Nano-enhanced Thermophotovoltaics

John G. Kassakian
Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems/Research Laboratory of Electronics

The Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems is exploring several exciting areas in which nano-sculpting of materials can provide dramatic improvements to “discarded” technologies for electricity generation and storage — perhaps to the point that they surpass the effectiveness and efficiency of more modern devices.

Using nanotube-enhanced electrodes to make a non-chemical battery was reported in the 2004 EECS newsletter. Another project relates to the use of photovoltaic (PV) diodes to convert heat directly into energy. Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) power conversion, first conceptualized in late 1950’s, would seem to be particularly appealing because of its static nature, which makes TPV systems amenable to compact designs, long-lifetime, and quiet, low-maintenance operation. However, TPV systems are notoriously inefficient, and therefore rarely used, because only a limited portion of the radiant energy is of the proper wavelength to be absorbed by the PV diode.

Researchers in the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems use nanotechnology to increase TPV efficiency by engineering and producing selective emitter surfaces and filters.

Researchers in the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems use nanotechnology to increase TPV efficiency by engineering and producing selective emitter surfaces and filters.

Today, we are able to use nanotechnology to increase TPV efficiency by engineering and producing selective emitter surfaces and filters. The doctoral research of Ivan Celanovic and Natalija Jovanovic investigates the fabrication, modeling, characterization, and application of micro-fabricated two-dimensional (2D) photonic crystals (PhCs) as selective emitters and means of achieving higher efficiencies in combustion-driven TPV systems. Our simulations and first-sample measurements are in good agreement, and open the door to significantly increasing efficiency and lowering the cost of TPV systems in the future.

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