Posted on August 2nd, 2010 by ryan.
Researchers at Stanford have announced a new class of solar collectors – they’re calling them “photon enhanced thermionic emission” devices. They’re claiming up to 60% conversion efficiency (theoretically) with fairly standard manufacturing process, but the real benefit is that they can operate at extremely high temperatures.
Regular PV becomes less effective as the temperature increases, making it difficult to do anything with the waste heat generated. By using this new type of energy conversion, the collecting plate can be kept at high temperatures, providing high-temp ‘waste’ heat, which can then be used for different types of energy storage. Generally, the bigger the temperature difference between your source (the sun) and sink (the atmosphere), the more efficient energy conversion processes are.
The article doesn’t go into much detail, but guess from the name (specifically the thermionic emission part) I’m guessing these things work similar to how light bulbs work, but in reverse.