Portable thermophotovoltaic power generator

Mesodyne is developing a novel fuel cell based upon a thermophotovoltaic technology that can dramatically reduce weight and footprint needed for mobile small-scale power currently provided by battery packs.

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Critical need for this technology

When a civilian’s phone battery dies, they can go to Starbucks and recharge it. When a soldier’s battery dies, they are at great bodily risk. Mesodyne solves this problem by converting fuel to electricity so that the soldier would only carry a generator and fuel, resulting in a 75% weight reduction compared with batteries on a 72-hour mission. To put it simply, Mesodyne generates watts of electricity, at the fuel flow of a lighter, in the palm of your hand.

Potential  CO2 Reduction

One application of Mesodyne’s technology is powering unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for package delivery. Commercial parcel delivery accounts for approximately 75 MtCO2e of emissions each year. Estimates of the emissions intensity of drone parcel delivery vary, depending on the fuel source and a variety of other factors, like range and payload. Estimating that this method could have 2/3 of the emissions of delivery by truck results in Mesodyne’s technology having the potential to reduce emissions by tens of MtCO2e each year.

Competition

Mesodyne faces competition from present military batteries: the standard BA-5590 (non-rechargeable) and BB-2590 (rechargeable) batteries – manufactured by a handful of well-established brands – as well as proprietary batteries for radios and specialized equipment. Although batteries are approaching their theoretical energy density limit, they represent a highly entrenched incumbent because the U.S. Army has millions of pieces of equipment designed around these batteries. Furthermore, these competitors have deeply entrenched relationships throughout the military procurement processes. Thus, Mesodyne’s first product, the PocketSun, will charge batteries rather than directly replace them.

Potential markets

  • Primary: U.S. military
  • Secondary: Emergency response, mountaineering, remote sensors, drone flight sustainment, and more

Value proposition: Our first product – the PocketSun – is a small, lightweight, portable generator that converts fuel into electricity. PocketSun provides a solution for portable power in the form of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) generator. This technology enables portable, reliable, and affordable energy generation. The technology works by using combustion to heat a thermal emitter to incandescence which leads to radiation which drives photovoltaic (PV) cells to generate electricity. This process enables the creation of a micro-generator that can provide power within the 1-100 W range. This technology functions with few moving parts, increasing its durability and reliability for portable use. These elements make Mesodyne’s solution the first micro-generator that is lightweight, efficient, and silent.

Key innovation

The critical component in Mesodyne’s new approach to thermophotovoltaics is the development of a practical photonic crystal. The technology works by converting fuel to electricity using heat and light as intermediaries. Specifically, propane combustion to heat a photonic crystal emitter to incandescence, leading to thermal radiation, which drives specialized photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. The result is watts of electricity from the fuel flow of a lighter.

R&D status of product

We have demonstrated the world record TPV efficiency (5% fuel-to-electricity) in a bench top experiment in January 2017 and are currently designing our fully portable prototype. While most of the basic science questions have been answered, there are still many engineering challenges left.

Team overview

Co-Founder and CEO

Veronika Stelmakh

B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Co-Founder Walker Chan

B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Technology profile

Status:R&D
Primary industry:Military
Category:Energy Storage
Estimated annual revenue:NA
Employs:NA
Social challenge:Energy management
R&D commercial collaborator:NA

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