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Directory:Thermionic Generators

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Nearly 200 years ago it was demonstrated that air in the neighborhood of a hot-body would conduct electricity. In 1899, J.J. Thomson showed that the discharge from a carbon filament in a vacuum tube was carried by negatively charged electrons. In 1903, the Nobel laureate Owen W. Richardson showed that a metallic anode would emit a limited number of electrons that would increase very rapidly with temperature.

This page is an index of technologies that seek to implement this effect into a practical energy device.



  • Rotating Thermionic Generator - Rotating Thermionic Generators rely upon centrifugal force to create a biased electron flow by lowering the work function of the Emitter to a fraction of a volt. Philip Hardcastle believes that this design could provide all the energy needs of the World, just from the heat in ambient air. (PESWiki; Aug. 28, 2008)


A thermionic generator (10) has a heated metal heat tube (11) journaled through a set of star-shaped emitters (12) and a set of electrically insulative spacers (13). The generator also has a collector (23) positioned about the grouped emitters and spacers a selected distance from the emitters. A cooling jacket (33) is positioned about the collector for cooling the collector during operation. A pair of seals (29) electrically and hermetically seal the cooling jacket about the heat tube.

Abstract: An improved thermionic generator constructed using microenginerring techniques is described. This device is easy to construct in large numbers, efficient, and inexpensive. A preferred embodiment uses micromachined silicon to produce a thermionic converter cell. These may be joined together in large arrays to form a thermionic generator.


In the News

  • Carbon Nanotube Thermionic Generators for Aircraft APUs - A sol-gel technique was developed which produced an inorganic-nanotube composite film which would be suitable for a thermionic device. This technique produced TiO2 films with homogeneously embedded carbon nanotubes. (NASA; Aug. 12, 2005)

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