Though renewable energy harvesting has become common these days, their conversion efficiency has remained low. For example, the best solar cells on market have efficiencies close to 30% while the thermodynamic limit is close to 94%. Improving materials that make the solar cells can push the efficiency to about 45%, but higher efficiencies need complex light management schemes. Thermophotovoltaics is one such light management scheme with a promise of near 80% conversion efficiency! In addition to solar energy, thermophotovoltaics can efficiently harvest other forms of clean energy such as industrial waste heat. Industrial waste heat being nearly 20% of the on-grid energy consumption, efficient harvesting of this otherwise waste energy resource is important. In this talk, I will discuss how nanophotonic principles applied to thermophotovoltaics enables efficient energy conversion from industrial waste heat and solar energy resources. Devices with nanostructured metal and semiconductor components operating at high temperatures hold the key to high efficiency. My talk will conclude with a note on the huge potential of nanophotonics in revolutionizing the renewable energy technologies, and thereby, paving a way to a cleaner future.
Speaker: Gururaj Naik