May 09

Super Solar Collector

Scientific breakthroughs often follow a collective focus on an issue or problem. When a tipping point is reached, the combination of small solutions across sectors spurs a giant leap forward. Renewable energy development has been a growing focus of international research over the last 3-4 decades and advances in clean energy technology have coincided with the rise of supercomputers, microtechnology and biomimicry. Biomimicry, for example, allows scientists to solve technological problems by copying structures and material qualities found in nature.

Bruno Michel, of IBM Research, is merging strategies from these different applicationsbruno michel to create a low-cost and efficient solar collector. The mirrored, parabolic dish that his team developed concentrates the sun’s energy 1,000 fold and doesn’t melt in the process. The system they built is called High-Concentration Photovoltaic Thermal (HCPVT).

Now, let’s break that down.

High-Concentration solar systems use mirrors to direct high amounts of energy to one spot. Imagine the power of a magnifying glass to direct sunlight and set a piece of paper on fire. Next, there are two types of High-Concentration solar systems: photovoltaic and solar thermal. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into energy while solar thermal uses collected heat to run steam turbines that produce energy.

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