Mechanical engineering graduate student Andrej Lenert and colleagues at MIT recently demonstrated a photonic-crystal based thermophotovoltaic system, which converts heat to electricity. Specifically, they paired a one-dimensional silicon/silicon dioxide photonic crystal emitter with an Indium Gallium Arsenide Antimonide (InGaAsSb) photovoltaic cell to reach thermophotovoltaic efficiency above 5 percent.
The work also predicted through theoretical modeling that solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) system efficiencies exceeding 10 percent could be achieved using two-dimensional tantalum photonic crystals for the emitter/absorber and a tandem filter with a simple planar layout. Data from the one-dimensional photonic crystal experiments matched predicted results within experimental uncertainty, thus validating the models.
Lenert, 27, presented the research in Washington, D.C., July 18-19, 2013, at a U.S. Department of Energy Frontier Research Centers Principal Investigators meeting.
His former post-doctoral associate Youngsuk Nam presented their paper, a joint effort under MIT Professors Evelyn Wang and Marin Soljacic, at the Transducers Conference in Barcelona, Spain in June.