Solar Update-Electricity from Heat directly

A new solar power technology could enable your mobile devices to be recharged from any source of heat. Solar energy efficiency is effectively converting light (heat) into electricity. But the sun isn’t the only source of light.

A new photovoltaic energy-conversion material has been developed at MIT that generates electricity from heat without using the sun. Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) energy conversion is the direct conversion of heat into electricity. Heat emits photons and a photovoltaic diode cell can absorb these radiated photons and convert them into an electric current.

Although this method of conversion isn’t new, it wasn’t efficient because photovoltaic diode cells would only absorb specific wavelengths of photons generated by a heat source. This meant that much of the heat was wasted for generating electric current.

But scientists at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies have developed a thermophotovoltaic material with billions of nanoscale pits on it’s surface that will absorb varying wavelengths of photons. This dramatically increases the efficiency of converting heat into electricity.

Engineers at MIT are currently developing a system where power for a device such as a smartphone could be recharged from heat. This would be done by attaching a tiny heat cartridge containing anything that generates heat.

According to Ivan Celanovic, a MIT research engineer, such a system would be three times more efficient than a lithium-ion battery of the same size and could power your smartphone for a whole week without being recharged.

atomIt’s possible that these heat cartridges could eventually be powered by a radioisotope, which produces heat from radioactive decay for thirty years.

This would eliminate the need for batteries or rechargers because your cartridge would generate electricity for three decades before needing to be replaced.



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