Bioenergy, Solar

Patent Issued for Thermionic Hybrid Vehicle

December 29, 2003 [] The US Patent Office has issued a patent, titled “Thermionic Automobile”, No. 6,651,760, to Gibraltar, Iceland-based Power Chips plc (PWCHF), a majority-owned subsidiary of the research and development company, Borealis Exploration Limited (BOREF), for a hybrid electric automobile using thermionic devices to drive electric motors. According to PWCHF, the company’s technology provides an efficient and low cost alternative to current designs for hybrid electric vehicles, as in a thermionic automobile, fuel is burned in a combustion chamber and the energy converters are placed against the walls of the chamber where they generate electricity from the heat. That electricity is then fed to electric motors, which drive the wheels of the car. PWCHF said that Power Chips (small wafer-like devices that use quantum mechanical tunneling to convert heat to electrical current) are projected to achieve 80 percent of Carnot efficiency, whereas a conventional internal combustion engine typically wastes more than two-thirds of the available energy from burning gasoline. According to PWCHF, almost any form of fuel could be used to generate the heat, from gasoline to vegetable oils, and even solar energy can be brought into play to add to the available power or increase the efficiency of the heat conversion. While Power Chips has its own proprietary technology for converting heat to electricity, the patent itself covers all technologies in which electricity is generated from heat, such as conventional thermionic and thermoelectric generators.