Combining Concentrating Solar and Thermoelectric Materials Raises Efficiency
Researchers at the University of Houston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reported a substantial advance in generating electricity through a combination of concentrating solar power and thermoelectric materials.
By combining concentrating solar power – which converts light into heat that is then used to generate electricity – with segmented thermoelectric legs, made up of two different thermoelectric materials, each working at different temperature ranges, researchers said they have demonstrated a promising new alternative solar energy technology.
Their findings are published in Nature Energy.
Zhifeng Ren, MD Anderson Professor of physics at the University of Houston and an author of the paper, said the work illustrates a new low-cost, nontoxic way to generate power. While it’s not intended to replace large-scale power plants, it could prove especially useful for isolated areas that aren’t on a traditional electric grid, powering small clusters of homes or businesses, for example, he said. In addition to generating electricity, the technology also can produce hot water – valuable for both private and industrial purposes.
In addition to Ren, other authors on the paper include Gang Chen, Daniel Kraemer, Kenneth McEnaney, Lee A. Weinstein and James Loomis, all of MIT, and UH researchers Qing Jie, Feng Cao and Weishu Liu.
Ren, who also is a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, said the work draws on the researchers’ earlier work, which demonstrated proof of the concept. For this project, supported in part by the Department of Energy, they actually built a device to measure how well optical concentration worked to improve the overall system efficiency.
They demonstrated an efficiency of 7.4 percent but reported that based upon their calculations, the device could achieve an efficiency of 9.6 percent. Their previous work resulted in an efficiency of 4.6 percent.
“The performance improvement is achieved by the use of segmented thermoelectric legs, a high-temperature spectrally selective solar absorber enabling stable vacuum operation with absorber temperatures up to 600 (degrees) C, and combining optical and thermal concentration,” the researchers wrote. “Our work suggests that concentrating STEGs (solar thermoelectric generators) have the potential to become a promising alternative energy technology.”
To gain the higher efficiency, the researchers used a solar absorber, boosted by optical concentrators to increase the heat and improve the energy density. The absorber was placed on legs constructed of thermoelectric materials. While their previous work used only bismuth telluride – a well-known thermoelectric material – this version used skutterudite for the top half of the legs and bismuth telluride for the lower half.
Thermoelectric materials produce electricity by exploiting the flow of heat current from a warmer area to a cooler area. By using two materials, the researchers said they were able to take advantage of a broader range of temperatures produced by the solar absorber and boost generating efficiency.
Skutterudite, for example, performs best at temperatures above 200 degrees Centigrade, while bismuth telluride works optimally at temperatures below that level.
“The record-high efficiencies are achieved by segmenting two thermoelectric materials, skutterudite and bismuth telluride, coupled to a spectrally selective surface operated at close to 600 (degrees) C by combined optical and thermal concentration of the sunlight,” they wrote.
The Latest on: Low-Cost Clean Energy Generation
via Google News
The Latest on: Low-Cost Clean Energy Generation
- How Renewable Energy Could Emerge on Top After the Pandemicon May 12, 2020 at 4:57 am
The short-term prospects for wind and solar power look rocky amid the economic upheaval of the coronavirus. But long term, renewables could emerge stronger than ever, experts say, especially if ...
- Form Energy Announces Pilot with Great River Energy to Enable the Utility's Transition to an Affordable, Reliable and Renewable Electricity Gridon May 7, 2020 at 12:00 pm
PRNewswire/ -- Form Energy, a company developing ultra-low-cost, long-duration energy storage for the grid, today announced it signed a contract ...
- Alchemy Renewable Energy Closes the Financing for a 44-Megawatt (DC) Solar Renewable Energy Portfolioon May 4, 2020 at 5:00 am
Alchemy Renewable Energy (ARE), a high growth portfolio company of Monarch Private Capital that owns and operates renewable energy facilities, is pleased to announce the financial closing for a ...
- The Crises of 2020 Will Delay the Transition to Clean Energyon April 29, 2020 at 11:09 am
The oil slump, global recession and uncertainty about the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic will fuel the appetite for cheaper fossil fuel energy and delay investments in renewables, affecting the ...
- The Renewable Energy Transition - is Green Hydrogen a Viable Solution for ASEAN countries?on April 28, 2020 at 10:08 pm
While renewables like hydro, solar and wind power are widely known, an energy source gaining momentum as a highly versatile energy source of tomorrow is hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen. Toshiba ...
- 18 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and counting: Britain hits a new record for coal-free electricity generationon April 28, 2020 at 5:36 am
"Alongside other low cost options like onshore wind, there are huge opportunities for innovative technologies like marine energy, floating wind, battery storage and renewable hydrogen to ...
- Europe can reach net-zero by 2050 with 100% renewables, study showson April 19, 2020 at 10:22 pm
paving the way to the development of competitive and sustainable hydrogen solutions where low-cost solar and wind will act as prime energy carriers. We also call for the establishment of a Clean ...
- Wind Energy Leads U.S. Power Generation Growthon April 16, 2020 at 1:45 pm
The trade group representing the U.S. wind energy industry says the sector emerged as the top provider of new utility-scale power generation ... providing reliable, low-cost, and zero-carbon ...
- Decommissioning coal – an opportunity for energy storage?on April 14, 2020 at 12:05 am
Of this total, battery energy storage ... and steady generation profile. Each of these functions can be easily and efficiently met by combined cycle gas turbines, at low cost and lower carbon ...
via Bing News