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      Highly-Efficient Thermoelectronic Conversion of Solar Energy and Heat into Electric Power

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          Abstract

          Electric power may, in principle, be generated in a highly efficient manner from heat created by focused solar irradiation, chemical combustion, or nuclear decay by means of thermionic energy conversion. As the conversion efficiency of the thermionic process tends to be degraded by electron space charges, the efficiencies of thermionic generators have amounted to only a fraction of those fundamentally possible. We show that this space-charge problem can be resolved by shaping the electric potential distribution of the converter such that the static electron space-charge clouds are transformed into an output current. Although the technical development of practical generators will require further substantial efforts, we conclude that a highly efficient transformation of heat to electric power may well be achieved.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Thermoelectric materials, which can generate electricity from waste heat or be used as solid-state Peltier coolers, could play an important role in a global sustainable energy solution. Such a development is contingent on identifying materials with higher thermoelectric efficiency than available at present, which is a challenge owing to the conflicting combination of material traits that are required. Nevertheless, because of modern synthesis and characterization techniques, particularly for nanoscale materials, a new era of complex thermoelectric materials is approaching. We review recent advances in the field, highlighting the strategies used to improve the thermopower and reduce the thermal conductivity.
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            Theory of Metal Surfaces: Work Function

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              Efficiency of a Carnot engine at maximum power output

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                15 January 2013
                Article
                10.1063/1.4817730
                1301.3505

                http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

                Custom metadata
                J. Renewable Sustainable Energy 5, 043127 (2013)
                10 pages including appendix, 4 figures
                cond-mat.mtrl-sci physics.class-ph physics.ins-det

                Condensed matter, Technical & Applied physics, Classical mechanics

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