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Hard-boiled Electrons: Using Thermionic Emission for Solar Energy Generation

Dr. Igor Bargatin
Stanford University, USA

An interdisciplinary team of Stanford researchers is currently building MEMS-based prototypes of new types of heat-to-electricity and solar-to-electricity energy converters. The first type of the device converts very high-temperature heat (>1000 C) to electricity the evaporation of electrons from solid surfaces (thermionic effect). The second type of the device simultaneously transforms light and heat energy provided by the sun into electricity and is based on the recently demonstrated effect of photon-enhanced thermionic emission (PETE). Both types of converters may be used to dramatically improve the efficiency of future solar thermal power plants. Dr. Bargatin will describe the principle of operation, the initial experiments, and the maximum theoretical efficiency of both types of these high-temperature MEMS devices.

 

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