Photovoltaic, fuel and battery cells do not require spinning of a turbine to generate electricity. Photovoltaic cells work by converting light energy (photons) into electricity by the photoelectric effect. Additionally, hydrogen fuel cells and batteries produce electricity via chemical reactions. They both work by the transfer of electrically charged particles through an electrolyte between two electrodes.
richardfisher, thank you for this helpful answer. I hadn’t thought of fuel cells. Thanks for your help!
Thermoelectric devices also generate electricity without moving parts such as turbines. Thermoelectric devices are basically heat engines that convert the energy in heat directly into electricity. Since they have no moving parts, they are very rugged and reliable. And because of this reliability and absence of moving parts, they are most frequently used to suppy electricity to deep space probes (using heat generated by the decay of a radioisotope). However, the efficiency of current thermoelectric devices tends to be much lower than the efficiency of rotating machinery. So they are not used for terrestrial generation of electicity. But given their reliability, as well as their versatility in terms of being able to generate electricity from waste heat and renewables such as solar and geothermal heat, much effort is being made to develop more efficient thermoelectric devices.
storminmatt, thanks for this great answer. I wonder how long a radioisotope device can last in practice? For example, could the deep space probes go for thousands of years, or are the expected to die sooner?
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