Spatial Profiles of Photon Chemical Potential in Near-Field Thermophotovoltaic Cells: Article No 213101

Dudong Feng, Eric Tervo, Dragica Vasileska, Shannon Yee, Ajeet Rohatgi, Zhuomin Zhang

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Emitted photons stemming from the radiative recombination of electron–hole pairs carry chemical potential in radiative energy converters. This luminescent effect can substantially alter the local net photogeneration in near-field thermophotovoltaic cells. Several assumptions involving the luminescent effect are commonly made in modeling photovoltaic devices; in particular, the photon chemical potential is assumed to be zero or a constant prescribed by the bias voltage. The significance of photon chemical potential depends upon the emitter temperature, the semiconductor properties, and the injection level. Hence, these assumptions are questionable in near-field thermophotovoltaic devices with nanoscale separation distances between the emitter and the cell. In the present work, an iterative solver that combines fluctuational electrodynamics with the drift-diffusion model is developed to tackle the coupled photon and charge transport problem, enabling the determination of the spatial profile of photon chemical potential beyond the detailed balance approach. The difference between the results obtained by allowing the photon chemical potential to vary spatially and by assuming a constant value demonstrates the limitations of the conventional approaches. This study is critically important for performance evaluation of near-field thermophotovoltaic systems with nanoscale vacuum gaps.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-78789


  • charge transport processes
  • fluctuational electrodynamics
  • near-field thermophotovoltaics
  • photon chemical potential


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