Some years back in this forum we had some discussion of the "Trymer 5000", 5kW electric power generator based on a new thermoelectric (or thermionic, depending on the reference) technology then being developed by Jon Schroeder's Trymer Company of Leander, Texas. The 5 kW product was then represented as being nearly ready for commercial release for under $1000. Oh yes, that was supposed to be 5 kW AC power, which is a bit unusual for thermoelectrics.
Quite a bargain, if true. I hadn't heard anything more of Trymer for some time until a recent email suggested they had run out of money and closed their doors. I can't confirm this one way or the other.
But I did do a web search which turned up the following bits:
According a 1998 US BMDO (Ballistic Missile Defence Organization) website this technology was funded by them and would enable a 5 kW generator costing $500, about the size of a bundt cake.
And sure enough, BMDO funded Phase I and Phase II SBIRs with Trymer in 1991, which ran into 1995.
Not to be left out, both NSF and Darpa award Trymer Phase I SBIRs in 1996.
The most recent web reference I can find is from a 2002 "Energy Venture Fair" announcement indicating Trymer would participate and was still very optimistic about the market potential for their products. They expected their "killer application" to be a residential "heat-to-electric" converter with a market of 200 million in the US alone.
Well, there you are. That's all I know. If anyone has sighted Trymer more recently, let us know (preferably by posting here).