Considerations for a high-performance thermionic energy conversion device based on a negative electron affinity emitter

Joshua Ryan Smith, Griff L. Bilbro, Robert Nemanich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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A theory is developed to model the effect a negative electron affinity (NEA) emitter electrode has on the negative space charge effect of a vacuum thermionic energy conversion device (TEC). The theory is derived by treating the electrons in the interelectrode space as a collisionless gas and self-consistently solving the Boltzmann transport equation and Poisson equation. The theory determines the point on the voltage-current characteristic such that the maximum motive due to space charge is at the same level as the conduction band minimum. It is shown that emitter electrodes with an NEA significantly mitigate the negative space charge effect; therefore a TEC employing such an electrode will outperfrom a similar TEC with conventional electrodes in terms of output power. Additionally, it is shown that a TEC with an NEA emitter electrode can have a greater interelectrode spacing than a TEC with conventional electrodes operating under similar conditions where the outputs of both TEC's are comparable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number245327
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 27 2007


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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