They develop a small thermophotovoltaic cell as efficient as the turbines of thermoelectric plants

By : Franyi Sarmiento, Ph.D., Inspenet, May 17, 2022

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) have developed a novel thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell capable of converting heat into electricity with an efficiency of over 40%. A device with a performance never before achieved with this type of technology, which is comparable to that of the turbines of thermoelectric plants, reported the educational institution.

The cell passively captures photons from a red-hot heat source, converting them to electricity through the photovoltaic effect. The device is described as a heat engine with no moving parts capable of producing energy from a heat source of between 1,900 and 2,400 ºC.

“This is a battery that takes electricity, converts it to high-temperature heat, stores the heat, and then converts it back to electricity on demand using TPVs,” the authors detail in a paper recently published in Nature.

Thermophotovoltaic cells work by heating the semiconductor materials they are made of to greatly increase the energy of the photons. At high enough temperatures, these particles can throw an electron from the valence band to the conduction band, generating electricity from a thermal source.

Incorporating the TPV cell into a grid-scale thermal battery, the researchers explain, creates a system that would absorb excess energy from renewable sources, such as the Sun, and store it in heavily insulated hot graphite banks. In this sense, they deepen, when energy is needed, for example, on cloudy days, TPVs would convert heat into electricity and send the energy to the electrical network.

According to scientists, the proliferation of thermal energy storage networks based on this technology, capable of producing amounts of energy comparable to thermoelectric turbines, could reduce about 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions, by dispensing with of the use of fossil fuels.

Source RT news in Spanish :