Radiative cooling is a uniquely compact and passive cooling mechanism. Significant applications can be found in energy generation, particularly concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) and thermophotovoltaics (TPV). Both rely on low-bandgap PV cells that experience significant reductions in performance and lifetime when operating at elevated temperatures. This issue creates a significant barrier to widespread adoption. To address this challenge, we demonstrate enhanced radiative cooling for low-bandgap PV cells under concentrated sunlight for the first time. A composite material stack is used as the radiative cooler. Enhanced radiative cooling reduces operating temperatures by 10 degrees C, translating into a relative increase of 5.7% in open-circuit voltage and an estimated increase of 40% in lifetime at 13 suns. Using a model, we also estimate the same setup could achieve an improvement of 34% in open-circuit voltage for 35 suns, which could reduce levelized costs of energy up to 33% for high activation energy failure modes. The radiative cooling enhancement demonstrated here is a simple and straightforward approach, which can be generalized to other optoelectronic systems.
Metasurfaces have emerged as elegant engineered interfaces capable of controlling optical phases and amplitudes within ultra-flat form factors. Recently, there has been an increasing effort to achieve reconfigurable metasurfaces incorporating various tuning mechanisms, including electrical, optical, mechanical or thermal driving forces. In particular, electronic tuning has previously been shown to provide potential control over virtually a full range of optical phases. However, practical implementation is limited by the maximum doping that can be achieved by applying bias, and by the inherent losses of the constituent materials. In this work, we apply electrically-tuned reconfigurable metasurfaces to achieve dynamically-controlled thermal sources. Kirchhoff’s law of thermal radiation suggests possible active control of spectral and angular properties of radiated heat in carefully designed metasurfaces. This goal can be achieved by coupling optical resonances that imply spectral and angular selectivity, to 2D plasmonic resonances in active structured 2D surfaces. We discuss the potential of different 2D materials, such as graphene, black phosphorus and transition metals dichalcogenides, with respect to their respective optical properties, bandgaps and inherent losses. The ultimate goal is to achieve maximal absorption in a dynamically selected direction at a given wavelength, by exciting surface-confined modes. Enabling active beam steering of coherent thermal sources may provide low-cost alternatives to existing infrared sources for applications such as sensing and thermal management.
Radiative cooling, a unique and uncommon passive cooling method for devices operating outdoors, has recently been demonstrated to be effective for photovoltaic thermal management. In this work, we investigate the effect of radiative cooling as a complement to existing passive cooling methods like convective cooling in a related system with much higher heat loads: a high-concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) system. A feasible radiative cooler design addressing the thermal management challenges here is proposed. It consists of low-iron soda-lime glass with a porous layer on top as an antireflection coating and a diamond layer as heat spreader. It is found that the proposed structure has strong mid-IR emittance as well as high solar transmission, allowing radiative cooling under direct sunlight and low loss in the concentrated solar irradiance. A systematic simulation with realistic considerations is then performed. Compared with a conventional copper cooler, the lowest temperature reached by the proposed radiative cooler is 14 K lower. Furthermore, less area of the proposed cooler is needed to reach a standard target temperature (333.15 K) for steady-state operation under high concentrations for the crystalline silicon PV module. In order to compare the coolers quantitatively, a figure of merit – cooling power per weight - is introduced. At the target temperature, the proposed cooler is determined to have a cooling power per weight of 75 W/kg, around 3.7 times higher than that of the conventional copper cooler.
Simultaneously controlling both the spectral and angular emission of thermal photons can qualitatively change the nature of thermal radiation, and offers a great potential to improve a broad range of applications, including infrared light sources and thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion of waste heat to electricity. For TPV in particular, frequency-selective emission is necessary for spectral matching with a photovoltaic converter, while directional emission is needed to maximize the fraction of emission reaching the receiver at large separation distances. This can allow the photovoltaics to be moved outside vacuum encapsulation. In this work, we demonstrate both directionally and spectrally-selective thermal emission for p-polarization, using a combination of an epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) thin film backed by a metal reflector, a high contrast grating, and an omnidirectional mirror. Gallium-doped zinc oxide is selected as an ENZ material, with cross-over frequency in the near-infrared. The proposed structure relies on coupling guided modes (instead of plasmonic modes) to the ENZ thin film using the high contrast grating. The angular width is thus controlled by the choice of grating period. Other off-directional modes are then filtered out using the omnidirectional mirror, thus enhancing frequency selectivity. Our emitter design maintains both a high view factor and high frequency selectivity, leading to a factor of 8.85 enhancement over a typical blackbody emitter, through a combination of a 22.26% increase in view factor and a 6.88x enhancement in frequency selectivity. This calculation assumes a PV converter five widths away from the same width emitter in 2D at 1573 K.
Radiative cooling has recently garnered a great deal of attention for its potential as an alternative method for photovoltaic thermal management. Here, we will consider the limits of radiative cooling for thermal management of electronics broadly, as well as a specific application to thermal power generation. We show that radiative cooling power can increase rapidly with temperature, and is particularly beneficial in systems lacking standard convective cooling. This finding indicates that systems previously operating at elevated temperatures (e.g., 80°C) can be passively cooled close to ambient under appropriate conditions with a reasonable cooling area. To examine these general principles for a previously unexplored application, we consider the problem of thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion of heat to electricity via thermal radiation illuminating a photovoltaic diode. Since TPV systems generally operate in vacuum, convective cooling is sharply limited, but radiative cooling can be implemented with proper choice of materials and structures. In this work, realistic simulations of system performance are performed using the rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) techniques to capture thermal emitter radiation, PV diode absorption, and radiative cooling. We subsequently optimize the structural geometry within realistic design constraints to find the best configurations to minimize operating temperature. It is found that low-iron soda-lime glass can potentially cool the PV diode by a substantial amount, even to below ambient temperatures. The cooling effect can be further improved by adding 2D-periodic photonic crystal structures. We find that the improvement of efficiency can be as much as an 18% relative increase, relative to the non-radiatively cooled baseline, as well as a potentially significant improvement in PV diode lifetime.
Thermal emission from blackbodies and flat metallic surfaces is non-directional, following the Lambert cosine law. However, highly directional thermal emission could be useful for improving the efficiency of a broad range of different applications, including thermophotovoltaics, spectroscopy and infra-red light sources. This is particularly true if strong symmetry breaking could ensure emission only in one particular direction. In this work, we investigate the possibility of tailoring asymmetric thermal emission using structured metasurfaces. These are built from surface grating unit elements that support asymmetric localization of thermal surface plasmon polaritons. The angular dependence of emissivity is studied using a rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) of absorption, plus Kirchhoff’s law of thermal radiation. It is further validated using a direct thermal simulation of emission originating from the metal. Asymmetric angular selectivity with near-blackbody emissivity is demonstrated for different shallow blazed grating structures. We study the effect of changing the period, depth and shape of the grating unit cell on the direction angle, angular spread, and magnitude of coupled radiation mode. In particular, a periodic sawtooth structure with a period of 1.5λ and angle of 8°was shown to create significant asymmetry of at least a factor of 3. Such structures can be considered arbitrary directional sources that can be carefully patterned on metallic surfaces to yield thermal lenses with designed focal lengths, targeted to particular concentration ratios. The benefit of this approach is that it can enhance the view factor between thermal emitters and receivers, without restricting the area ratio or separation distance.
Converting blackbody thermal radiation to electricity via thermophotovoltaics (TPV) is inherently inefficient. Photon recycling using cold-side filters offers potentially improved performance but requires extremely close spacing between the thermal emitter and the receiver, namely a high view factor. Here, we propose an alternative approach for thermal energy conversion, the use of an integrated photonic crystal selective emitter (IPSE), which combines two-dimensional photonic crystal selective emitters and filters into a single device. Finite difference time domain and current transport simulations show that IPSEs can significantly suppress sub-bandgap photons. This increases heat-to-electricity conversion for photonic crystal based emitters from 35.2 up to 41.8% at 1573 K for a GaSb photovoltaic (PV) diode with matched bandgaps of 0.7 eV. The physical basis of this enhancement is a shift from a perturbative to a nonperturbative regime, which maximized photon recycling. Furthermore, combining IPSEs with nonconductive optical waveguides eliminates a key difficulty associated with TPV: the need for precise alignment between the hot selective emitter and cool PV diode. The physical effects of both the IPSE and waveguide can be quantified in terms of an extension of the concept of an effective view factor.
Major sources of performance degradation and failure in glass-encapsulated PV modules include moisture-induced gridline corrosion, potential-induced degradation (PID) of the cell, and stress-induced busbar delamination. Recent studies have shown that PV modules operating in damp heat at -600 V are vulnerable to large amounts of degradation, potentially up to 90% of the original power output within 200 hours. To improve module reliability and restore power production in the presence of PID and other failure mechanisms, a fundamental rethinking of accelerated testing is needed. This in turn will require an improved understanding of technology choices made early in development that impact failures later. <p> </p>In this work, we present an integrated approach of modeling, characterization, and validation to address these problems. A hierarchical modeling framework will allows us to clarify the mechanisms of corrosion, PID, and delamination. We will employ a physics-based compact model of the cell, topology of the electrode interconnection, geometry of the packaging stack, and environmental operating conditions to predict the current, voltage, temperature, and stress distributions in PV modules correlated with the acceleration of specific degradation modes. A self-consistent solution will capture the essential complexity of the technology-specific acceleration of PID and other degradation mechanisms as a function of illumination, ambient temperature, and relative humidity. Initial results from our model include specific lifetime predictions suitable for direct comparison with indoor and outdoor experiments, which are qualitatively validated by prior work. This approach could play a significant role in developing novel accelerated lifetime tests.
It has recently been proposed that designing selective emitters with photonic crystals (PhCs) or plasmonic metamaterials can suppress low-energy photon emission, while enhancing higher-energy photon emission. Here, we will consider multiple approaches to designing and fabricating nanophotonic structures concentrating infrared thermal radiation at energies above a critical threshold. These are based on quality factor matching, in which one creates resonant cavities that couple light out at the same rate that the underlying materials emit it. When this quality-factor matching is done properly, emissivities can approach those of a blackbody, but only within a selected range of thermal photon energies. One potential application is for improving the conversion of heat to electricity via a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) system, by using thermal radiation to illuminate a photovoltaic (PV) diode. In this study, realistic simulations of system efficiencies are performed using finite-difference time domain (FDTD) and rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA) to capture both thermal radiation and PV diode absorption. We first consider a previously studied 2D molybdenum photonic crystal with a commercially-available silicon PV diode, which can yield TPV efficiencies up to 26.2%. Second, a 1D-periodic samarium-doped glass emitter with a gallium antimonide (GaSb) PV diode is presented, which can yield efficiencies up to 38.5%. Finally, a 2D tungsten photonic crystal with a 1D integrated, chirped filter and the GaSb PV diode can yield efficiencies up to 38.2%; however, the fabrication procedure is expected to be more challenging. The advantages and disadvantages of each strategy will be discussed.
Finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) methods suffer from reduced accuracy when modeling
discontinuous dielectric materials, due to the inhererent discretization ("pixellization"). We show
that accuracy can be significantly improved by using a sub-pixel smoothing of the dielectric function,
but only if the smoothing scheme is properly designed. We develop such a scheme based on a
simple criterion taken from perturbation theory, and compare it to other published FDTD smoothing
methods. In addition to consistently achieving the smallest errors, our scheme is the only one
that attains quadratic convergence with resolution for arbitrarily sloped interfaces. Finally, we
discuss additional difficulties that arise for sharp dielectric corners.
A new on-chip silicon-based Bragg cladding waveguide with full CMOS compatibility is developed. This novel optical waveguide has a low refractive index core (SiO<sub>2</sub>) surrounded by a 1D photonic crystal cladding. The cladding consists of several dielectric bilayers, where each bilayer consists of a high index-contrast pair of layers of Si and Si<sub>3</sub>N<sub>4</sub>. This new waveguide guides light based on omnidirectional reflection, reflecting light at any angle or polarization back into the core. Its fabrication is fully compatible with current microelectronics processes. In principle, a core of any low-index material can be realized with our novel structure, including air. Potential applications include tight turning radii, high power transmission, nonlinear properties engineering and biomaterials sensors on silicon chip.