A team of researchers from the Stanford University recently discovered a new technique that picks up a satellite-powering technology from 1950s and refurbished it to cater the spiking demand for renewable energy in present century. The Thermionic Energy Converters or the TECs came integrated with bimetallic junctions that can transform heat into power, however, the new version makes use of graphene which makes it seven times more efficient as compared with the original version. As the lead researcher of this project, professor Roger Howe likes to point out, the usage of graphene in this process has given a completely new life to the process of thermionic energy conversion, this improves the electricity production and brings down the environmental effects of the process.
While thermal energy is present in abundance for the most cost-effective prices all over the world, till now, it was being harnessed only with mechanical heat engines with turbines that have the very same design as these had in last century. Thus, this system can only be used for large power installations. Contradictory to that, the latest TEC prototype has the potential to turn heat into electricity in a much more efficient manner and keeps out the requirement for any large sized expensive equipment that was required in 1950s.
The prototype prepared by TEC includes two electrodes, the collector and the emitter that stand apart with a very small vacuum gap. These researchers examined the potential of this prototype with a single graphene sheet that replaced tungsten as collector material.A Stanford Researcher and also the lead author of this research paper adds that , “”TEC technology is very exciting. With improvement in the efficiency, we expect to see an enormous market for it. TECs could not only help make power stations more efficient, and therefore have a lower environmental impact, but they could be also applied in distributed systems like solar cells. In the future, we envisage it being possible to generate 1-2 kilowatts of electricity from water boilers, which could partially power your house.”
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