Virginia Patent of the Month – April 2021

Portable electric power generating devices are very convenient when you have no access to the electric power grid – for instance, remote installation, backup generators, satellites in orbit. There are different kinds, from gasoline engines to solar panels to batteries. Each of these have limitations, from constant recharging or refueling, to limited access to the sun. Birmingham Technologies, Inc. has designed a nano-scale energy conversion device using thermionic and thermoelectric energy conversion.

Thermoelectric conversion uses a temperature gradient to convert waste heat into electricity. Thermionic conversion also converts heat into electrical energy but uses electrons emitted from an emitter electrode. The nano-scale energy conversion device uses emitter and collector electrodes which are separated by insulator posts. The cavity between electrodes is filled with a nanofluid. Thermodynamic properties cause the emitter electrode to transfer electrons to the collector, creating a net electric current.This net current creates a positively charged emitter and negatively charged collector. These nano-scale energy conversion devices generate electrical energy in a long-lived, constantly-recharging battery. The combination of thermoelectric and thermionic functions creates a conversion efficiency superior to any currently available single or double conversion batteries. Their light-weight and compact design makes them great for any size-scale electrical application.

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