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A Thermophotovoltaic System Using a Photonic Crystal Emitter

[+] Author Affiliations
Walker R. Chan, Veronika Stelmakh, Marin Soljacic, John D. Joannopoulos, Ivan Celanovic

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Christopher M. Waits

US Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, MD

Paper No. MNHMT2016-6695, pp. V001T06A005; 5 pages
  • ASME 2016 5th International Conference on Micro/Nanoscale Heat and Mass Transfer
  • Volume 1: Micro/Nanofluidics and Lab-on-a-Chip; Nanofluids; Micro/Nanoscale Interfacial Transport Phenomena; Micro/Nanoscale Boiling and Condensation Heat Transfer; Micro/Nanoscale Thermal Radiation; Micro/Nanoscale Energy Devices and Systems
  • Biopolis, Singapore, January 4–6, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Heat Transfer Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4965-1
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The increasing power demands of portable electronics and micro robotics has driven recent interest in millimeter-scale microgenerators. Many technologies (fuel cells, Stirling, thermoelectric, etc.) that potentially enable a portable hydrocarbon microgenerator are under active investigation. Hydrocarbon fuels have specific energies fifty times those of batteries, thus even a relatively inefficient generator can exceed the specific energy of batteries. We proposed, designed, and demonstrated a first-of-a-kind millimeter-scale thermophotovoltaic (TPV) system with a photonic crystal emitter. In a TPV system, combustion heats an emitter to incandescence and the resulting thermal radiation is converted to electricity by photovoltaic cells. Our approach uses a moderate temperature (1000–1200°C) metallic microburner coupled to a high emissivity, high selectivity photonic crystal selective emitter and low bandgap PV cells. This approach is predicted to be capable of up to 30% efficient fuel-to-electricity conversion within a millimeter-scale form factor. We have performed a robust experimental demonstration that validates the theoretical framework and the key system components, and present our results in the context of a TPV microgenerator. Although considerable technological barriers need to be overcome to realize a TPV microgenerator, we predict that 700–900 Wh/kg is possible with the current technology.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
Topics: Crystals



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