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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 2;110(14):5309-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1301004110. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

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

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Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


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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