Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) energy conversion enables millimeter scale power generation required for portable microelectronics, robotics, etc. In a TPV system, a heat source heats a selective emitter to incandescence, the radiation from which is incident on a low bandgap TPV cell. The selective emitter tailors the photonic density of states to produce spectrally confined selective emission of light matching the bandgap of the photovoltaic cell, enabling high heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency. The selective emitter requires: thermal stability at high-temperatures for long operational lifetimes, simple and relatively low-cost fabrication, as well as spectrally selective emission over a large uniform area. Generally, the selective emission can either originate from the natural material properties, such as in ytterbia or erbia emitters, or can be engineered through microstructuring. Our approach, the 2D photonic crystal fabricated in refractory metals, offers high spectral selectivity and high-temperature stability while being fabricated by standard semiconductor processes. In this work, we present a brief comparison of TPV system efficiencies using these different emitter technologies. We then focus on the design, fabrication, and characterization of our current 2D photonic crystal, which is a square lattice of cylindrical holes fabricated in a refractory metal substrate. The spectral performance and thermal stability of the fabricated photonic crystal thermal emitters are demonstrated and the efficiency gain of our model TPV system is characterized.

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