Clean, reliable power through thermophotovoltaic energy conversion.
David Bierman and Prof. Andrej Lenert completed their Ph.D.s from MIT in mechanical engineering. While at MIT, they developed a novel solar-driven thermophotovoltaic (TPV) converter capable of turning heat into electricity by absorbing thermal radiation using a photovoltaic cell. Their research, under the supervision of Prof. Evelyn Wang and Prof. Marin Soljacic, helped revitalize the field. Experimenting with sunlight as the fuel source they established the current world record for solar-to-electrical conversion efficiency using TPV. Lenert is currently an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and serves as a technical advisor to Marigold Power.
Bierman founded Marigold Power after the work on solar TPV led to numerous academic publications, most recently in Nature Energy (2016) and Nature Nanotechnology (2014). This effort was named one of the “Biggest Clean Energy Advances in 2016” and one of the “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017” by the MIT Technology Review following the team’s demonstration of the first solar TPV device to generate more power than the underlying photovoltaic cell would on its own. This work has also been featured in a number of media outlets, including Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, and MIT News.
Critical need: The primary power needs of the U.S. electricity sector are currently met by large-scale, centralized mechanical heat engines. Demand for remote or distributed power, however, cannot be met by these established technologies, which, fundamentally, cannot scale down. The absence of cost-effective, modular, on-demand distributed power solutions, without which an efficient, sustainable electricity grid is unattainable.
Technology vision: We are developing solid-state power generation that enables the distributed grid of the future. Our durable thermophotovoltaic (TPV) platform converts a wide variety of fuels to electricity. This platform will enable solutions for a range of applications, from utility-scale to remote power demands.
Current state-of-the-art: Previous TPV commercialization efforts have been hindered by high cost and low performance. However, through concerted academic research in device fabrication, materials processing, and thermal engineering, TPV components have been improving steadily over the past half century. Despite these efforts, successful integration of these components into functional TPV systems has not been realized.
Key innovation: To build upon our state-of-the-art converters, Marigold Power is continuing to develop solutions to these challenges by merging innovations in nanophotonics, photovoltaics, and robust thermal engineering.
Competing technology: Commercially available solutions for on-demand power delivery at sub-megawatt scales primarily exist in the form of diesel and natural gas generators, or solar photovoltaics combined with electrical battery systems. These systems can be costly to install and maintain and typically have lifetimes between two and eight years. Other solid-state heat engines, such as thermoelectric and thermionic generators, aim to fill the same technology gap but currently cannot compete with these existing solutions.
First market hypothesis: Our thermophotovoltaic power conversion platform opens the door for a wide array of potential applications and markets. Some examples include powering remote, critical loads in off-grid agriculture, telecom, and oil and gas applications.
Potential for impact: A widespread adoption of our efficient, robust thermophotovoltaic platform would redefine how we think about power generation. For example, miniaturization of an on-demand power plant down to the sub-megawatt scale has the potential to save more than five quadrillion BTUs of primary energy consumption annually, which would result in a 10 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the U.S. electricity sector.
We're looking for:
- Technical collaborators
- Joint development partners
- Technoeconomic analysis
- Team members - scientist, engineers
- Team members - business
Previous work on solar-driven thermophotovoltaic converters:
MIT Technology Review: “10 Breakthrough Technologies” (2017)
MIT Technology Review: “Biggest Clean Energy Advances in 2016” (2016)
MIT NEWS: "Hot new solar cell" (2016)
Scientific American: "New Hybrid Solar Device Exploits the Best of Both Worlds" (2014)
IEEE Spectrum: "Thermophotovoltaic Device Has Potential to Reach Huge Solar Efficiencies" (2014)
David Bierman (david [at] marigoldpower [dot] com)