Thermoelectric Energy Conversion with Solid Electrolytes

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Science  02 Sep 1983:
Vol. 221, Issue 4614, pp. 915-920
DOI: 10.1126/science.221.4614.915


The alkali metal thermoelectric converter (AMTEC) is a device for the direct conversion of heat to electrical energy. The sodium ion conductor beta"- alumina is used to form a high-temperature regenerative concentration cell for elemental sodium. An AMTEC of mature design should have an efficiency of 20 to 40 percent, a power density of 0.5 kilowatt per kilogram or more, no moving parts, low maintenance requirements, high durability, and efficiency independent of size. It should be usable with high-temperature combustion, nuclear, or solar heat sources. Experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of the AMTEC and confirmed the theoretical analysis of the device. A wide range of applications from aerospace power to utility power plants appears possible.