TXL is a new entrant into this year’s Space Elevator Games Power Beaming Competition. They are planning on using lasers to power their climber, but not in the “conventional” sense, i.e., beaming the lasers onto photovoltaic cells and running their motors off of the resultant electricity.
I emailed David Nemir, the fearless leader of team TXL to ask him what they planned to do. Here is his reply:
“TXL Group is a start-up company that was founded in 2007 to refine and produce a high efficiency thermoelectric generation technology that has been under development for several years. Thermoelectric devices generate electrical power from a thermal differential. As TXL migrates from theory to lab to field, we are interested in venues where we can showcase our technology and “make a lot of noise”.
There will be substantial waste heat with any laser powered application and thermoelectric generation represents a means to recover some of that energy. We have been watching the space elevator competition since its inception, with an eye to donating thermoelectric cells to one or more teams in exchange for press and PR coverage. However, at the present time, since TXL does not have a finished product and is not yet prepared to release proprietary information, the company decided to field its own entry.
Our concept is to use a combination of phase change and thermoelectric technology to provide energy to the climber. Maintaining the “cold side” temperature is a major challenge and we will likely use a closed cycle radiative heat exchanger as part of the system.
Because our approach is based upon heat, we are not concerned about the wavelength of the laser and so the 1020 nm laser that Trumpf has so generously offered seems like a good fit. The TXL Team will be attending the Photonics West show and will be talking to TRUMPF at that time. During the show, we would like to also meet with others in the Space Elevator community. Jan Beck and I will be at the show on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and we can be reached by cell at (915) 449-1907. Give us a call — we’ll buy the coffee.”
So there you have it. If you are a member of another Power Beaming team or a member of the press and you are attending the show (I’m jealous if you are), give Jan or David a call.
It occurred to me that some other Climber entries have also tried to power their entry via heat by using Stirling Engines – none successfully so far. I looked up Thermoelectric Effect in Wikipedia (sorry, Dr. Edwards) and found that it is quite different. I will be very curious to see how well they do this year. Good luck to them!