Regenerative Thermophotovoltaics

Tech ID: 24085 / UC Case 2014-167-0

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
United States Of America Published Application 20170025984 01/26/2017 2014-167
 

Brief Description

Thermophotovoltaics (TPVs) converts infrared rays from a very hot thermal source into photovoltaic electricity. This process is analogous to using solar cells, but TPVs use thermal emitter and a photovoltaic diode cell to change energy forms. Conventional silicon solar cell is effectively a TPV device in which the sun functions as the emitter, and the cell’s silicon structures absorb in the visible portion of the spectrum. Many solar cell systems neglect the small infrared photon emissions due to known physical and design constraints. Thermophotovoltaic devices are uniquely positioned to overcome that limitation by harvesting the unconverted thermal-infrared emissions. Historically, the efficiency for such devices (with spectral selectivity) reach only 15%. For a world with increasing energy and conservation needs, a thermophotovoltaic module solution would need to perform at higher efficiencies for a variety of high- and low-power demand scenarios. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed the "Regenerative Thermophotovoltaics" framework which is designed to exploit the small infrared photons typically lost in thermophotovoltaic cells, while architecting the device for optimal variable-demand performance. The Berkeley device framework effectively captures and recycles unused photons in the photovoltaic cell that are generally below ~0.8eV energy. By putting these thermal-infrared photons to work, conversion efficiencies >50% may be produced, which could contend with conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) approaches. 

Suggested uses

  • Automotive power systems
  • Trucking power systems
  • Stationary power systems

Advantages

  • No moving parts
  • Very lightweight as compared to traditional ICE
  • Estimated 55% efficiency conversion improvement
  • Overcomes architecture challenges associated with TPVs 
  • Scalable for various transportation needs

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Inventors

  • Yablonovitch, Eli

Other Information

Keywords

thermophotovoltaics, infrared photons, photons, energy, conservation, conversion, combustion engine, thermal-infrared, TPV, ICE

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