Thermophotovoltaic Efficiency of 40%

Alina LaPotin, Kevin Schulte, Myles Steiner, Kyle Buznitsky, Colin Kelsall, Daniel Friedman, Eric Tervo, Ryan France, Michelle Young, Andrew Rohskopf, Shomik Verma, Evelyn Wang, Asegun Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Thermophotovoltaics (TPVs) convert predominantly infrared wavelength light to electricity via the photovoltaic effect, and can enable approaches to energy storage1,2 and conversion3–9 that use higher temperature heat sources than the turbines that are ubiquitous in electricity production today. Since the first demonstration of 29% efficient TPVs (Fig. 1a) using an integrated back surface reflector and a tungsten emitter at 2,000 °C (ref. 10), TPV fabrication and performance have improved11,12. However, despite predictions that TPV efficiencies can exceed 50% (refs. 11,13,14), the demonstrated efficiencies are still only as high as 32%, albeit at much lower temperatures below 1,300 °C (refs. 13–15). Here we report the fabrication and measurement of TPV cells with efficiencies of more than 40% and experimentally demonstrate the efficiency of high-bandgap tandem TPV cells. The TPV cells are two-junction devices comprising III–V materials with bandgaps between 1.0 and 1.4 eV that are optimized for emitter temperatures of 1,900–2,400 °C. The cells exploit the concept of band-edge spectral filtering to obtain high efficiency, using highly reflective back surface reflectors to reject unusable sub-bandgap radiation back to the emitter. A 1.4/1.2 eV device reached a maximum efficiency of (41.1 ± 1)% operating at a power density of 2.39 W cm–2 and an emitter temperature of 2,400 °C. A 1.2/1.0 eV device reached a maximum efficiency of (39.3 ± 1)% operating at a power density of 1.8 W cm–2 and an emitter temperature of 2,127 °C. These cells can be integrated into a TPV system for thermal energy grid storage to enable dispatchable renewable energy. This creates a pathway for thermal energy grid storage to reach sufficiently high efficiency and sufficiently low cost to enable decarbonization of the electricity grid.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)287-291
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume604
Issue number7905
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-80222

Keywords

  • back surface reflector
  • BSR
  • decarbonization
  • OMVPE
  • TEGS
  • thermal energy grid storage
  • thermophotovoltaic
  • TPV

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