Case 14212

A High Efficiency Micro-Thermophotovoltaic Generator System


Micro-thermophotovoltaic generator, TPV systems, fuel cells, power source, solar thermal power


Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) systems

  • Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) systems generally exhibit extremely low power conversion efficiencies -- on the order of 1% or less -- mostly due to thermal emission of undesirable mid-wavelength infrared photons.
  • The design of photonic crystals which have the potential to strongly suppress these losses is complex and generally present a non-convex design optimization problem.


Solving the above problems requires efficient objective function evaluation as well as efficient global optimization algorithms. In this invention, both requirements are met in order to design two new systems: micro-TPV generators and solar thermal TPV systems. A power electronics architecture is also demonstrated which is suitable for TPV power generation. Low-power sensing techniques is incorporated and high power conversion efficiency and small size is achieved. A tracking efficiency above 99% is demonstrated. This invention also demonstrates a micro-TPV system generating 150 mW with the MPPT converter.

  • Micro-TPV reactors see up to a 27-fold increase in their efficiency and power output
  • Solar thermal TPV systems see up to a 45-fold increase in their efficiency to exceed the Shockley-Quiesser limit for a single-junction photovoltaic cell.
  • The invention paves the way towards a fully integrated, fully functional micro-scale TPV power generator.

  • Professor John D. Joannopoulos (Department of Physics, MIT)
  • Professor Klavs F. Jensen (Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT)
  • Professor Steven Glenn Johnson (Department of Applied Mathematics, MIT)
  • Professor Marin Soljačić (Department of Physics, MIT)
  • Professor Peter H. Fisher (Department of Physics, MIT)
  • Peter Bermel (Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT)
  • Ivan Celanovic (Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
  • Robert Pilawa-Podgurski (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT)
  • Michael Ghebrebrhan (Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT)
  • Walker Chan (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT)
  • Adrian YX. Yeng (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, MIT)
  • Christopher H. Marton (Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT)
  • Mohammand Araghchini (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, MIT)

Intellectual Property:

US Patent Application Number 13/112831, filed on May 20, 2011


The Economist: Building a better suntrap- A novel approach to solar power may help to improve its efficiency (1/11/2012)

Related Cases:

14368: Angular Photonic Band Gap

15281: Thermally Stable Nano Structure for Selective Emitter

Last revised: April 30, 2013

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