Enhancing Thermophotovoltaics via Selective Thermal Emitters and Radiative Thermal Management

2019-11-25T13:03:19Z (GMT) by Zhiguang Zhou
Thermal radiation is a fundamental heat transfer process, with certain basic aspects still not fully understood. Furthermore, tailoring its properties has potential to affect a wide range of applications, particularly thermophotovoltaics (TPV) and radiative cooling. TPV converts heat into electricity using thermal radiation to illuminate a photovoltaic diode, with no moving parts. With its realistic efficiency limit up to 50% (heat source at 1200 oC), TPV has garnered substantial interest. However, state-of-the-art TPV demonstrations are still well below theoretical limits, because of losses from generating and efficiently converting or recycling thermal radiation. In this thesis, tailored integrated photonic crystal structures are numerically simulated to enhance the efficiency of solar TPV. Next, a high-temperature thin-film Si-based selective absorber and emitter is designed, fabricated and experimentally characterized. It exhibits great potential to open up new applications, as it lends itself to large-scale production with substantial mechanical flexibility and excellent spectral selectivity for extended time periods, even when operating under high operating temperatures (600 oC) for up to 6 hours, with partial degradation after 24 hours. To perform this high-temperature characterization, an emittance measurement setup has been built; its performance agrees well with numerical simulations. Second, a unique passive cooling mechanism known as radiative cooling is developed to reduce the operating temperature of the photovoltaic diode. The significant effect of radiative cooling as a complement for an all-passive-cooling TPV system is proposed and numerically analyzed under a range of conditions. Furthermore, an outdoor experiment has been performed to demonstrate the effect of radiative cooling on a concentrating photovoltaic system, which can potentially be applied to the thermal management of a TPV system. In summary, this work paves the way towards the development of reliable, quiet, lightweight, and sustainable TPV and radiatively cooled power sources for outdoor applications.