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.
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.
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.
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.