Scaling up solar energy collection means addressing a critical problem. While additions like anti-reflective coatings can boost efficiency on solar panels, the more solar energy a collector gathers, the hotter it gets--and if temperatures rise too high the heat could damage the device.
A group at IBM Research - Zurich is addressing this problem and announced on Earth Day 2013 that they are developing a High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system. IBM says the collector will be able to generate significantly more electrical power from the sun’s rays than comparable systems while staying cool enough to function.
According to IBM, the proposed HCPVT system’s dish contains hundreds of photovoltaic chips, and the rate at which it can generate electrical power is about 25kW. With the help of a microchannel water cooling system, the system is capable of concentrating the power of 2,000 suns, on average, and converting 80 percent of the radiation collected.
In a video, a research scientist at Zurich explains the solar radiation concentration methods that will be used in the proposed system.
The design offers other efficiency boosts: the hot water produced in the microchannels can be used for air conditioning or filtered for drinking. More electrical power and a useful hot water byproduct aren’t the only boons; as with many systems designed to increase efficiency, it promises to be more cost effective as well. Although IBM’s press release on the proposed system doesn’t mention any market plans, it does claim that the design is suitable for mass production. If they do go beyond prototype stages, IBM states these systems could be built at a cost three times lower than comparable systems, and may help deliver electricity, fresh water, and cool air to remote locations.
screencaptured image via IBM Social Media
written by Tomorrow Lab, June 17, 2013