Our world encompasses a number of technologies that simply eat energy: phones, toys and tablets are just a few of these. The historical use of batteries is limited to the amount of energy they can produce per pound and the fact that they are not renewable or sustainable. Scientists around the world have been focusing on this topic and may have come up with microchip style batteries based on thermophotovoltaics. This involves the same process as the current thermophotovoltaics, which is converting light into electricity, but in this case they are accessing the heat from infrared rays (or any other warm source). This concept has been on the drawing board for a long time, but the challenge has been the size. The new thermophotovoltaic generator has been called the ‘power plant in a button-size’. The generator is a one square centimeter area microchip and may be as important of a game-changer as electricity itself.
The researchers addressed a weakness potential of the thermophotovoltaic generators when they realized the limitation of the conversion on limited band wavelengths of light to electricity, thereby losing the rest of the thermal energy. They took a truly Buck Rogers approach by adding photonic crystals in between the reactor and the thermophotovoltaics. The resulting trials have shown an efficiency rate of 2.7% in the heat-to-electricity conversion, with expected goals soon to reach 2.5%.
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