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4 June 2014 Thermophotovoltaic and thermoelectric portable power generators
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The quest for developing clean, quiet, and portable high energy density, and ultra-compact power sources continues. Although batteries offer a well known solution, limits on the chemistry developed to date constrain the energy density to 0.2 kWh/kg, whereas many hydrocarbon fuels have energy densities closer to 13 kWh/kg. The fundamental challenge remains: how efficiently and robustly can these widely available chemical fuels be converted into electricity in a millimeter to centimeter scale systems? Here we explore two promising technologies for high energy density power generators: thermophotovoltaics (TPV) and thermoelectrics (TE). These heat to electricity conversion processes are appealing because they are fully static leading to quiet and robust operation, allow for multifuel operation due to the ease of generating heat, and offer high power densities. We will present some previous work done in the TPV and TE fields. In addition we will outline the common technological barriers facing both approaches, as well as outline the main differences. Performance for state of the art research generators will be compared as well as projections for future practically achievable systems. A viable TPV or TE power source for a ten watt for one week mission can be built from a <10% efficient device which is achievable with current state of the art technology such as photonic crystals or advanced TE materials.
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Walker R. Chan, Christopher M. Waits, John D. Joannopoulos, and Ivan Celanovic "Thermophotovoltaic and thermoelectric portable power generators", Proc. SPIE 9083, Micro- and Nanotechnology Sensors, Systems, and Applications VI, 90831W (4 June 2014);

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