Discovery of New Nanomaterial to Revolutionize Thermophotovoltaic Cells

Published Date : Apr 19, 2016

The pace at which research and development activities are currently taking place in the field of solar energy, and technologically advanced, more efficient and novel materials are being discovered with a view to leverage the potential of photovoltaic cells is astonishing. Scientists all over the world are challenging themselves with the development of highly efficient photovoltaic cells that will be capable of harnessing the vast potential of solar power that is effortlessly available on most parts of the earth, in ample amounts in several seasons.

The field of solar thermophotovoltaic cells is one of the most researched segments of the solar power production industry, as thermophotovoltaic cells are said to have the potential of converting as much as 80% solar energy to usable power.

A new experiment has led to the discovery of a radical new variety of nanomaterial that has opened the possibilities of developing highly effective thermophotovoltaic cells. A research team from the Australian National University and the University of California Berkeley has fabricated a nanomaterial, or metamaterial, as the team refers to it, that emits an unusual glow when it is heated. 
The material is said to be capable of driving a revolution in the development of thermophotovoltaic cells and make the field of solar power conversion even more competitive and more resourceful.

Analysts estimate that thermophotovoltaic cells are at least two time more efficient, in terms of conversion efficacy, as compares to conventional solar photovoltaic cells. Thermophotovoltaic cells do not require direct sunlight for generating power, and can instead harvest the heat that is present in their surroundings as infrared radiations. As a result, thermophotovoltaic cells can be used to recycle heat that is radiated by hot engines or be combined with a burner for the production of on-demand power.

The material, said to have demonstrated capabilities of radiating heat in specific directions, has been developed from nanoscale structure of gold and magnesium fluoride. The researchers state that the geometry of the material can also be tweaked to make the material radiate heat in specific spectral range, in contrast to the conventional materials that are capable of emitting their heat in all directions. This makes the material ideal for use in a thermophotovoltaic cell.