Wider presents the Thermionic Converter: The future is getting closer
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 3:35 PM
During the first day of the Superyacht Design Festival in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Veneto, Italy), WIDER's President Marcello Maggi announced a revolutionary technology: the Thermionic Converters (TCs). As pioneers in their field, WIDER having introduced the serial hybrid propulsion system in their yacht builds before anyone else in the industry, Maggi was invited to be on the panel for the breakout session "The future of the engine room".
Responding to ever more demanding environmental requirements, WIDER are delighted to introduce the revolutionary technology – the Thermionic Converters. Developed by the Fintel Energia Group SpA (part of Hopafi Holding SpA), which works in the electricity and natural gas sector, the group engaged in the development and exploitation of plants for the production of energy from renewable sources. Fintel's founder and CEO, Tiziano Giovannetti, is also WIDER's Chief Financial Strategist and the technology that has been developed will be the sole right of the WIDER shipyard where the nautical industry is concerned.
The Thermionic Converters are solid-state devices that are able to transform heat directly into electricity with no moving parts, consisting of two metal plates separated by a vacuum gap. When one metal plate is heated to high temperatures, the surface will emit electrons across the vacuum gap to the cold metal plate, resulting in usable electrical energy. Historically, this technology has been used to power satellites because these devices are very compact and require almost no maintenance.
For many years, the drawback of TCs was a low conversion efficiency (4%) and their need for extremely high temperatures (>1800 C°). By revolutionizing the materials used and developing new system architectures, efficiency has been increased by >20x and the activation temperature has been dramatically lowered. The resulting technology is finally compatible for use in thousands of applications, creating the world's first cost-effective combined heat and power solution.
Advantages of the Thermionic Converters:
• Small and lightweight, TC'S can be designed in a variety of shapes: they can virtually fit inside any source of heat and transform it into direct electricity.
• TC'S are encased solid-state devices: there are no moving parts and therefore almost no need for maintenance.
• TC'S are the most power dense heat to electricity devices currently known.
"I cannot conceal the pride and the emotion in presenting this innovative technology that will bring us closer and closer to a 100% electric propulsion," declares Marcello Maggi. "Today in the nautical sector, which is a luxury niche, it is inconceivable not to place emphasis and attention on the environmental sustainability that involves us all. The WIDER 150 and WIDER 165 are already compliant with the Norwegian Law 488/2012 stating that from 2025 only vessels with electric propulsion will be allowed to navigate through the Norwegian fjords."
As we know, the laws surrounding the reduction of pollution are increasingly tightening and this applies to the superyacht industry as well as shipping. As of 2021, if you are not compliant with IMO TIER III, it will be forbidden to access some marine areas in the world (aka ECA - Emission Control Areas). "We are also delighted to announce that the WIDER 180, which is nearing construction, is already compliant with IMO TIER III," says Maggi.
The aim is for the Italian shipyard to apply this revolutionary technology on all builds, namely the WIDER 180 and WIDER 135. The energy produced by the thermionic converters will be stored in the batteries to satisfy the Hotel Load that is required. The production of the 54m WIDER 180 will begin in the next weeks with delivery foreseen in two-years.