Mark Cappelli, Associate Professor; Nalu Kaahaaina, Research Engineer; Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
Researchers will perform systems analysis and small-scale experimental performance verification of an optically modulated thermionic energy converter (OMTEC). Thermionic energy converters (TEC) can function as topping cycle devices for combustion systems or serve as the primary heat engine for a solar-thermal system. Current methods to maintain high plasma density between TEC electrodes produce ohmic and scattering loss mechanisms which dramatically affect current density. The work will indicate the feasibility of using a low power, continuous wave diode laser to excite an electronic resonance mode of cesium to produce the dense plasma. This method has the potential to dramatically increase TEC efficiency and power density.