Molten Storage and Thermophotovoltaics Offer New Solar Power Pathway

A new wrinkle on an old technology – solid-state thermophotovoltaics (TPV) – could provide a high-efficiency alternative for directly converting high-temperature heat from concentrated solar thermal to utility-scale electricity.

Image: Hamid Reza Seyf
Writer: John Toon

New computer modeling suggests that high temperature TPV conversion – which captures infrared radiation from very hot surfaces – could one day rival combined-cycle turbine systems when combined with thermal storage using liquid metal at temperatures around 1,300 degrees Celsius. Advances in high-temperature components and improved system modeling, combined with the potential for conversion costs an order of magnitude lower than those of turbines, suggest that TPV could offer a pathway for efficiently storing and producing electrical power from solar thermal sources, a new study suggests.

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ME’s Bara Cola Honored with Alan T. Waterman Award

Image: Georgia Tech
Writer:  Polly Ouellette

In a testament to the monumental impact his research has made during a career that began only a few years ago, Baratunde “Bara” Cola has won the prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award.

Cola, an associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, was honored for his development of new engineering methods to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale. The Waterman Award is widely regarded as the nation’s highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers.

The award, bestowed by the National Science Foundation, recognizes one outstanding researcher per year who is under age 35. This year, however, seems to be even more special. It is the first time that a professor from Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering has been selected. In the 42 years the award has been distributed, it is only the second time that two researchers have been recognized in the same year.

Cola was recognized for piloting a breakthrough other researchers have been attempting to overcome for decades. He and his team created something called an optical rectenna, which effectively and efficiently turns light into direct current. The research involves carbon nanotubes to collect light and rectifier diodes (which are nanotechnology-enabled mechanisms) to convert this light into electricity.

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