Selective emitters are materials characterized by a high temperature emissivity significantly changing in different spectral regions. One of the crucial steps for the development of Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) generators is given by an optimal matching of the spectral emissivity of an IR radiation source with the spectral region where is maximum the efficiency of photovoltaic cells. The emitters should retain good structural properties at the working temperature above 1300°C and they can be either an external coating for the a burner or, as a structural material, a burner and emitter at once. In this work, oxide glass and ceramics containing rare earths have been prepared and characterized as selective emitters candidates. Different approaches and materials have been attempted all based on a colloidal route. Rare earths oxides (erbium and holmium) have been incorporated in transparent silica glass and in polycrystalline alumina and zirconia using their hydrated salts as oxide precursors. Rare earth modified silica glass were obtained by sintering silica xerogel containing fumed silica and hydrolysed ortholisicate. Rare earth modified alumina and mixed alumina-zirconia ceramics were obtained from slurries containing alumina colloidal particles and milled ceramic fibres. Functional properties i.e. the high temperature spectral emissivities have been measured by means of a specially designed apparatus where the working conditions of the selective emitters can be reproduced and monitored.
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