IBM Solar Collector to Breakthrough-Collects the Power of 2,000 Suns; Still Keeps it Cool
An IBM-led research team is working on a solar concentrating dish that will be able to collect 80 percent of incoming sunlight and convert it to useful energy as well as avoid damage while taking a big step forward in solar power efficiency. The microchannel water-cooling that kept Aquasar from frying will also cool the hundreds of photovoltaic chips gathering energy at the center, allowing each chip to concentrate the power of 2,000 times the solar energy would normally face. IBM states that the system would be just one-third the cost third of current comparable technologies. Now, that is an added bonus.
IBM claims that it would require only two percent of the Sahara's total area to supply the world's energy needs. The team designed the HCPVT system around a huge parabolic dish covered in mirror facets. A tracking system that moves along with the sun supports and controls the dish. Sunrays reflect off the mirror into receivers containing triple junction photovoltaic chips, each able to convert 200-250 watts over eight hours. Combined hundreds of the chips provide 25 kilowatts of electricity.
Since the microchannels should absorb more than half of the waste heat, while still generating electricity, one can either filter its hot water byproduct into drinkable water or convert into air conditioning by a thermal drive absorption chiller that converts heat through silica gel. Anyways, the collector also promises to do more with sunlight once it has trapped.
To keep the HCPVT safe to operate at a concentration of 2,000 times on average, and up to 5,000 times the power of the sun, the team cooled the entire dish with liquids that are 10 times more effective than passive air methods. In fact, the branched blood supply system of the human body has inspired the direct cooling.
As you might imagine, IBM sees more than just the obvious environmental benefit. Since, the HCPVT is less costly than many other similar installations, a fully developed solar array could be cheap replacement for coal power that delivers greater self-sufficiency-imagine remote towns that need a fresh water supply. The receiver will generate about 25kW of energy.
While Switzerland molds and manufactures tech coolers, the companies on-site provide construction. Through their design, IBM believes they can maintain a cost of less than 10cents per kilowatt-hour.
IBM will first build several prototypes of the dish in Biasca and Rüschlikon, Switzerland. The company does not report when we will see production of these collectors beyond several prototypes, but the accomplished work will likely be welcome to anyone unsatisfied with the accessibility of the current solar energy.