"Microbead-separated thermionic energy converter with enhanced emission current "

Karl A. Littau: Kunal Sahasrabuddhe, Dustin Barfield, Hongyuan Yuan, Zhi-Xun Shen, Roger T. Howeae and Nicholas A. Melosh; Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 07/16/13.

Additional Authors: Kunal Sahasrabuddhe, Dustin Barfield, Hongyuan Yuan, Zhi-Xun Shen, Roger T. Howeae and Nicholas A. Melosh

Abstract:

The efficiency of thermionic energy converters is a strong function of the inter-electrode separation due to space-charge limitations. Here we demonstrate vacuum thermionic energy converters constructed using barium dispenser cathodes and thin film tungsten anodes, separated by size specific alumina microbeads for simple device fabrication and inter-electrode gap control. The current and device efficiency at the maximum power point are strongly dependent on the inter-electrode gap, with a maximum device efficiency of 0.61% observed for a gap on the order of 5 μm. Paths to further reductions in space charge and improved anode work function are outlined with potential for over an order of magnitude improvement in output power and efficiency.