Toward high-energy-density, high-efficiency, and moderate-temperature chip-scale thermophotovoltaics

Walker R. Chan, Peter Bermel, Robert C.N. Pilawa-Podgurski, Christopher H. Marton, Klavs F. Jensen, Jay J. Senkevich, John D. Joannopoulos, Marin Soljačić, Ivan Celanovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The challenging problem of ultra-high-energy-density, high-efficiency, and small-scale portable power generation is addressed here using a distinctive thermophotovoltaic energy conversion mechanism and chip-based system design, which we name the microthermophotovoltaic (μTPV) generator. The approach is predicted to be capable of up to 32% efficient heat-to-electricity conversion within a millimeter-scale form factor. Although considerable technological barriers need to be overcome to reach full performance, we have performed a robust experimental demonstration that validates the theoretical framework and the key system components. Even with a much-simplified μTPV system design with theoretical efficiency prediction of 2.7%, we experimentally demonstrate 2.5% efficiency. The μTPV experimental system that was built and tested comprises a silicon propane microcombustor, an integrated high-temperature photonic crystal selective thermal emitter, four 0.55-eV GaInAsSb thermophotovoltaic diodes, and an ultrahigh- efficiency maximum power-point tracking power electronics converter. The system was demonstrated to operate up to 800 °C (silicon microcombustor temperature)with an input thermal power of 13.7W, generating 344 mW of electric power over a 1-cm2 area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5309-5314
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Catalytic combustion
  • Micro generator
  • Thermal radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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