A new wrinkle on an old technology – solid-state thermophotovoltaics (TPV) – could provide a high-efficiency alternative for directly converting high-temperature heat from concentrated solar thermal to utility-scale electricity.
New computer modeling suggests that high temperature TPV conversion – which captures infrared radiation from very hot surfaces – could one day rival combined-cycle turbine systems when combined with thermal storage using liquid metal at temperatures around 1,300 degrees Celsius. Advances in high-temperature components and improved system modeling, combined with the potential for conversion costs an order of magnitude lower than those of turbines, suggest that TPV could offer a pathway for efficiently storing and producing electrical power from solar thermal sources, a new study suggests.
The underlying technologies of high temperature storage and thermophotovoltaic conversion could also be used to produce grid-scale batteries able to rapidly supplement other power sources by storing heat for quick conversion to electricity. The research, supported by ARPA-E, was reported July 4 in the journal Energy & Environmental Science by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“The goal for our study was to provide a heat transfer and thermodynamic perspective on a system that combines concentrated solar power (CSP) with thermal storage and TPV to show that such a system is worthy of renewed attention,” said Asegun Henry, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. “In the context of the full system, we suggest that the efficiency could one day rival the best heat engines available on planet today.”