Thermo-photovoltaic cells reach new record effieciency

October 13, 2008--New indium-phosphide based thermo-photovoltaic cells ramp efficiency levels up dramatically to 12%, for applications including waste-heat recovery from furnaces, combined heat and power generation, and domestic boilers.

October 13, 2008--CIP Technologies (Ipswich, England), manufacturer of photonic hybrid integrated circuits and indium-phosphide (InP)-based optoelectronic devices, has announced a new energy-conversion-efficiency record for thermo-photovoltaic (TPV) cells. In partnership with the University of Oxford (Oxford, England) and Wafer Technology Ltd. (Bucks, England), and with partial funding from the UK Technology Strategy Board and EPSRC, a successful three-year collaborative research project has delivered first generation single-junction cells with energy conversion efficiencies up to 12%. This compares to 9% from existing, commercially available devices.

Thermo-photovoltaics are similar to solar cells, but operate at infrared rather than visible wavelengths, generating electricity directly from heat. They have applications in waste-heat recovery from industrial plants such as blast furnaces, combined heat and power (CHP) generation, and domestic boilers, as well as silent mobile power generation.

The cells produced by the consortium are based on InP materials, rather than the more traditional gallium antimonide. InP offers higher efficiency, low cost growth and fabrication using industry-standard processes, combined with potential to fabricate more highly integrated and complex cells.

David Rogers, TPV project manager, commented, "CIP's expertise in InP growth and fabrication continues to demonstrate successful application to new markets and products, and builds on its III-V solar cell expertise to continue to address areas of environmental importance."

The consortium is now working on a second-generation cell design with a more complex, multi-layer construction that will improve infrared capture even further. This is expected to extend energy conversion efficiencies to over 15%, significantly widening the range of viable applications for the technology.

On the TPV project, CIP is responsible for epitaxial growth, device fabrication, and the fabrication of fully packaged TPV modules. Wafer Technology developed a new range of low-cost InP substrates, and the University of Oxford engaged in cell design and device testing.

Andrew Bridges, CIP's commercial and contracts manager, adds, "The advanced technology that has emerged from this project complements solar photovoltaic cells, and significant efficiency gains from the second-generation product are expected. CIP is leading the commercial exploitation and volume manufacture of this technology and is actively seeking partners and end users to develop its full market potential."


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