Solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs) are solid state heat engines that generate electricity from concentrated sunlight. A novel detailed balance model for STEGs is provided and applied to both state-of-the-art and idealized materials. STEGs can produce electricity by using sunlight to heat one side of a thermoelectric generator. While concentrated sunlight can be used to achieve extremely high temperatures (and thus improved generator efficiency), the solar absorber also emits a significant amount of black body radiation. This emitted light is the dominant loss mechanism in these generators. In this invention, we propose a solution to this problem that eliminates virtually all of the emitted black body radiation. This enables solar thermoelectric generators to operate at higher efficiency and achieve said efficient with lower levels of optical concentration. The solution is suitable for both single and dual axis solar thermoelectric generators.
This invention was made with government support under award number DE-AR0670-4918 from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.