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Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)

Posted by: sanman - Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:48 pm
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Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE) 
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Space Walker
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Post Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)   Posted on: Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:48 pm
Researchers at Stanford have come up with a way to improve solar energy conversion efficiency, called Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE):


http://www.gizmag.com/pete-process-harn ... ncy/15918/

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/08/stanfo ... .html#more

They claim it can double existing photoelectric conversion efficiencies.

Is this type of technology practical for powering satellites more efficiently?

I'm wondering if it could even be used to power VASIMR with increased power density.


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Space Station Commander
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Post Re: Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)   Posted on: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:44 pm
Given that it doesn't reach optimum operating temp until over 200 C (where Si panels die), I would think it is ideally suited to space use.

The only issues might be cost and weight. Si panels have gotten cheaper and thinner/lighter and "sails" of them are well understood and easily incorporated on sats and spacecraft. This system will probably be ideal with a parabolic concentrator, basically a sun tracking dish.


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Post Re: Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)   Posted on: Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:06 pm
Well, I'm not sure that concentrators are practical for space-based applications, since concentrators only save on expensive material costs but add weight. Space applications seem to be willing to spend more in order to save weight, since weight is such a critical factor.

But even without concentrators, I would think that the raw power of solar energy in space would make this PETE approach better.

I wonder if it could be incorporated into high-altitude balloons, to make them harvest solar energy more efficiently. That would probably require some kind of organic polymer-based version of PETE, to use in a flexible skin.

Anyway, this tech could certainly be useful on the ground, if it were used to build solar panel arrays on the lunar or martian surface.


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Space Station Commander
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Post Re: Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)   Posted on: Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:34 pm
Depends on the properties and power characteristics of the material. Such as if a thin film reflector with a wire tensioner focusing on a single panel backed up by a sterling engine or other thermal generator can produce more power for a given weight than a traditional array of panels can.

Either way, it will help a lot in space applications.


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