The viability of thermal energy conversion utilizing black body radiation

Q. Diduck, M. Margala

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA

Modern thermal energy conversion devices are focused on energy extraction based upon thermal couple structures. Our work presents a novel mechanism for realizing thermal energy converters based upon black body radiation. Radiative energy conversion is not limited only to heat pump techniques, thus very high efficiencies are theoretically possible (~85%). The presented power density estimates are on the order of 12 watts per cubic centimeter while operating at room temperature (300K). At higher temperatures, such as 500K, estimates of 34 watts per cubic centimeter are expected. Theoretical techniques that can be used to convert this form of radiation directly to electricity are discussed. The main principle of operation is in utilizing microscopic wave-guides in combination with specialized rectifying structures, such as ballistic diodes. In addition, we address the limitations of this methodology with respect to current technology and state of the art manufacturing techniques.