The Thermionic electric Power Generator (TPG)
Thermionic power generator (TPG) is a device that converts heat energy into electrical energy.
In 1873, the Britain professor Frederic Guthrie invented the Thermionic phenomenon.
In 1883, Thomas A. Edison observed that the electrons are emitted from a metal surface when it was heated. This effect is called Edison effect.
Later in 1904, a British physicist John Ambrose Fleming developed two-element vacuum tube known as diode.
After Fleming, Owen Willans Richardson worked with thermionic emission and received a Nobel Prize in 1928 "for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him
After the first demonstration of the practical arc-mode caesium vapor thermionic converter by V. Wilson in 1957, several applications of it were demonstrated in the following decade, including its use with solar, combustion, radioisotope and nuclear reactor heat sources. The application most seriously pursued, however, was the integration of thermionic nuclear fuel elements directly into the core of nuclear reactors for production of electrical power in space. Substantial thermionic space reactor development programs were conducted in the U.S., France and Germany in the period 1963-1973, and the US resumed a significant thermionic nuclear fuel element development program in the period 1983-1993.
In recent years technology development programs for solar-heated thermionic space power systems were conducted for possible space reactor and naval reactor applications.
Prototype combustion-heated thermionic systems for domestic heat and electric power cogeneration, and for rectification, have been developed.
• Thermionic power generator is based on the principles of Thermionic effect that the electrons are emitted from a hot metal surface and responsible for the production of electricity.
• A thermionic energy converter (or) thermionic power gnerator is a device consisting of two electrodes placed near one another in a vacuum.
• One electrode is normally called the cathode, or emitter, and the other is called the anode, or plate.
• Ordinarily, electrons in the cathode are prevented from escaping from the surface by a potential-energy barrier.
• When an electron starts to move away from the surface, it induces a corresponding positive charge in the material, which tends to pull it back into the surface.
• At ordinary temperatures, almost none of the electrons can acquire enough energy to escape.
• However, when the cathode is very hot, the electron energies are greatly increased by thermal motion.
• At sufficiently high temperatures, a considerable number of electrons are able to escape.
• The liberation of electrons from a hot surface is called thermionic emission
• The TPG consist of tungsten metal, which is negatively charged cathode acts as an emitter.
• There is positively charged electrode is called collector. It is collecting the ejected electrons. The emitter and collector are kept in a vacuum quartz tube.
Our research has shown that substantial improvements in converter performance can be obtained now at lower operating temperatures by addition of oxygen to the caesium vapor, by suppression of electron reflection at the electrode surfaces
By hybrid mode operation shown that excited Cs-atoms in thermionic converters form clusters of Cs-Rydberg matter which yield a decrease of collector emitting work function from 1.5 eV to 1.0 – 0.7 eV. Due to long-lived nature of Rydberg matter this low work function remains low for a long time which essentially increases the low-temperature converter’s efficiency.
• Higher efficiency and high power density;
• Direct high temperature conversion in to electrical power;
• Compact to use.
• There is a possibility of vaporization of emitter surface
• Thermal breaking is possible during operation
• The sealing is often gets failure
• They are used in space power application for spacecraft
• They are used to power submarines and boats.
• They used in water pump for irrigation,
• They used in power plant for industry and domestic purpose
: Alex Paunescu
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