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Direct Thermal Energy Conversion and Utilization

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The vast majority (>90%) of current global energy consumption involves thermal energy in the form of heating, cooling or waste heat. Likewise, of the available solar energy arriving at the Earth’s surface, the majority manifests itself as heat. With all this available heat, new technologies that can ...

The vast majority (>90%) of current global energy consumption involves thermal energy in the form of heating, cooling or waste heat. Likewise, of the available solar energy arriving at the Earth’s surface, the majority manifests itself as heat. With all this available heat, new technologies that can effectively convert the heat directly into other readily usable energy, such as electricity, or directly utilizing this available heat, thereby removing the need to supply the heat through other means (such as burning fossil fuels), could have a profound impact on how efficiently we consume energy and ultimately the global energy economy. For nearly a century, new concepts have emerged that look to capitalize on this ‘heat’ opportunity, including thermionic energy conversion, direct thermoelectric power generation, and solar thermal technologies, but few if any of these developments have found widespread implementation.

However, given the enormity of the energy challenge our planet faces, a renewed urgency is needed to bring direct thermal energy conversion and utilization technologies to fruition. This will require new developments in understanding fundamentals processes, new materials that enable heightened efficiency and new device designs that optimize performance.
The purpose of this Research Topic is to collect recent developments in the field of direct thermal energy conversion and utilization. We welcome articles discussing new research on thermoelectrics, thermionic energy conversion and solar thermal energy conversion and utilization as well other relevant methods and approaches to direct thermal energy conversion and utilization. Articles covering every aspect of the area – including theory, modeling, experimental, and device development - are encouraged.


Keywords: thermoelectrics, thermionic emission, solar thermal, energy conversion, energy efficiency


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