Analysis, Optimization, and Assessment of Radioisotope Thermophotovoltaic System Design for an Illustrative Space Mission

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A companion paper presented at this conference described the design of a Radioisotope Thermophotovoltaic (RTPV) Generator for an illustrative space mission (Pluto Fast Flyby). It presented a detailed design of an integrated system consisting of a radioisotope heat source, a thermophotovoltaic converter, and an optimized heat rejection system. The present paper describes the thermal, electrical, and structural analyses which led to that optimized design, and compares the computed RTPV performance to that of a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) designed for the same mission. RTPV's are of course much less mature than RTGs, but our results indicate that - when fully ... continued below

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Schock, Alfred; Mukunda, Meera & Summers, G. June 28, 1994.

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Description

A companion paper presented at this conference described the design of a Radioisotope Thermophotovoltaic (RTPV) Generator for an illustrative space mission (Pluto Fast Flyby). It presented a detailed design of an integrated system consisting of a radioisotope heat source, a thermophotovoltaic converter, and an optimized heat rejection system. The present paper describes the thermal, electrical, and structural analyses which led to that optimized design, and compares the computed RTPV performance to that of a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) designed for the same mission. RTPV's are of course much less mature than RTGs, but our results indicate that - when fully developed - they could result in a 60% reduction of the heat source's mass, cost, and fuel loading, a 50% reduction of generator mass, a tripling of the power system's specific power, and a quadrupling of its efficiency. The paper concludes by briefly summarizing the RTPV's current technology status and assessing its potential applicability for the PFF mission. For other power systems (e.g. RTGs), demonstrating their flight readiness for a long mission is a very time-consuming process to determine the long-term effect of temperature-induced degradation mechanisms. But for the case of the described RTPV design, the paper lists a number of factors, primarily its cold (0 to 10 degrees C) converter temperature, that may greatly reduce the need for long-term tests to demonstrate generator lifetime. In any event, our analytical results suggest that the RTPV generator, when developed by DOE and/or NASA, would be quite valuable not only for the Pluto mission but also for other future missions requiring small, long-lived, low mass generators. Another copy is in the Energy Systems files.

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  • Report No.: FSC-ESD-217-94-524
  • DOI: 10.2172/1034425 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1034425
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc839661

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  • June 28, 1994

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  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Sept. 22, 2017, 5:43 p.m.

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Schock, Alfred; Mukunda, Meera & Summers, G. Analysis, Optimization, and Assessment of Radioisotope Thermophotovoltaic System Design for an Illustrative Space Mission, report, June 28, 1994; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc839661/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.