Solar energy conversion process

Nick Melosh, assistant teacher of products science and manufacturing, stands next to the ultra-high vacuum chamber utilized in the tests that proved the PETE process works.A brand new process that at the same time combines the light as well as heat of solar radiation to come up with electricity can offer over twice as much effectiveness of present solar mobile technology, say the Stanford engineers whom discovered it and proved that it works. The method, called "photon enhanced thermionic emission, " or PETE, could reduce steadily the expenses of solar power production adequate for it to take on oil as an electricity origin.

By Louis Bergeron

Jack Hubbard

Assistant Professor Nick Melosh inside the Stanford Lab defines the way the system works.

Stanford engineers have actually determined simple tips to simultaneously utilize the light and heat regarding the sunlight to build electricity in a way that could make solar powered energy production more than doubly efficient as existing techniques and possibly low priced adequate to take on oil.

Unlike photovoltaic technology currently utilized in solar power panels – which becomes less efficient once the temperature rises – the latest procedure excels at higher conditions.

Called "photon enhanced thermionic emission, " or PETE, the procedure guarantees to surpass the effectiveness of existing photovoltaic and thermal conversion technologies.

"it is truly a conceptual breakthrough, a brand new energy transformation procedure, not just an innovative new product or a somewhat various tweak, " stated Nick Melosh, an assistant teacher of materials research and engineering, just who led the investigation team. "it is in reality anything basically different about how exactly you can easily harvest power."

Therefore the materials needed to build a tool to make the procedure work are low priced and easily offered, indicating the energy that comes from it are affordable.

Melosh is senior writer of a paper explaining the examinations the researchers carried out. It was posted web Aug. 1 in Nature Materials.

"Just demonstrating that process worked was a big deal, " Melosh said. "and now we showed this real device does exist; it works as marketed."

Many photovoltaic cells, such as those utilized in roof solar panels, use the semiconducting product silicon to convert the power from photons of light to electrical energy. Nevertheless cells can only just use a portion for the light range, along with the rest simply creating heat.

This temperature from unused sunshine and inefficiencies inside cells themselves take into account a loss of a lot more than 50 % for the preliminary solar technology reaching the cell.

L.A. Cicero

Nick Melosh, assistant professor of products research and manufacturing, stands next to the ultra-high machine chamber found in the examinations that proved the PETE procedure works.

If this squandered temperature energy could somehow be harvested, solar panels could be even more efficient. The difficulty happens to be that high temperatures are necessary to run heat-based conversion systems, yet solar power cellular effectiveness rapidly reduces at higher conditions.

Up to now, no body had come up with a way to wed thermal and solar power mobile transformation technologies.

Melosh's group figured out that by covering an item of semiconducting product with a thin layer of this steel cesium, it made the materials able to utilize both light as well as heat to generate electrical energy.

"everything we've demonstrated is a new real procedure that is certainly not according to standard photovoltaic mechanisms, but could provide a photovoltaic-like response at extremely high temperatures, " Melosh said. "In fact, it really works better at greater conditions. The higher the higher."

While most silicon solar panels have already been rendered inert by the time the heat reaches 100 degrees Celsius, the PETE device does not hit top effectiveness until its above 200 C.

a tiny PETE device created using cesium-coated gallium nitride glows while being tested inside an ultra-high machine chamber. The tests proved the process simultaneously converted light as well as heat power into electrical present.Because PETE executes best at conditions well over what a roof cell would achieve, the products will be able to work best in solar concentrators such as for example parabolic dishes, that may get since hot as 800 C. Dishes are utilized in large solar facilities just like those suggested for Mojave Desert in Southern Ca and often feature a thermal transformation apparatus as an element of their design, that offers another opportunity for PETE to aid produce electricity plus minimize prices by meshing with existing technology.

Thanks to Nick Melosh

A tiny PETE unit made out of cesium-coated gallium nitride glows while being tested inside an ultra-high vacuum cleaner chamber. The tests proved the process at the same time converted light as well as heat power into electrical existing.

"The light would come in and hit our PETE device very first, in which we'd take advantage of both event light additionally the temperature it creates, then we'd dump the waste-heat to their existing thermal transformation systems, " Melosh said. "therefore the PETE process has actually two truly big benefits in energy production over typical technology."

Photovoltaic systems never ever get hot sufficient because of their waste heat to-be useful in thermal energy conversion, however the large temperatures where PETE executes are ideal for creating usable high-temperature waste heat. Melosh determines the PETE process will get to 50 per cent effectiveness or higher under solar power concentration, but if coupled with a thermal conversion period, could achieve 55 and/or 60 percent – virtually triple the performance of existing methods.

The team would like to design the products so that they could be quickly bolted on to existing systems, thereby making transformation reasonably cheap.

The researchers utilized a gallium nitride semiconductor into the "proof of idea" tests. The performance they realized within their evaluation had been really below whatever they have actually computed PETE's prospective efficiency to-be – that they had anticipated. Nonetheless they used gallium nitride given that it was the only product which had shown indications to be capable endure the temperature range these were enthusiastic about but still possess PETE process happen.

Using the right material – almost certainly a semiconductor like gallium arsenide, used in a host of common home electronic devices – the efficiency associated with the procedure could reach up to the 50 or 60 percent the researchers have actually determined. They have been currently checking out other products which may work.

An additional benefit of the PETE system is from it in solar concentrators, the quantity of semiconductor material required for a device is very tiny.

"per device, we're figuring something like a 6-inch wafer of actual product is all this is certainly needed, " Melosh stated. "so that the product price inside is not a problem for us, unlike how it really is for big solar panels of silicon."

The price of products was among restrictive elements into the growth of the solar power industry, so decreasing the level of investment finance needed to develop a solar farm is a big advance.

"The PETE process could really give the feasibility of solar energy a large boost, " Melosh stated. "even though we don't attain perfect effectiveness, let's imagine we give a 10 % boost toward effectiveness of solar transformation, going from 20 percent efficiency to 30 %, that is however a 50 per cent boost general."

And that's still a big enough enhance that it could make solar energy competitive with oil.

The investigation had been mostly funded because of the worldwide Climate and Energy venture at Stanford in addition to Stanford Institute for components and Energy Science, that will be a jv of Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, with extra help from Department of Energy while the Defense Advanced studies Agency.

Source: news.stanford.edu
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