Cool (literally) technology - Concentrated Solar Cells

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IBM is doing some interesting work in Solar Power. Laying out square footage of silicon solar cells is idiotic. The cost is so high that you are operating a net energy rat-hole. If you took the same money and invested it at 4%, you would make way more interest than any Electrical Utility would ever dream of charging you for the equivalent amount of electricity. And that electricity doesn't need to have its batteries changed every couple of years and that utility doesn't suffer from slow degradation of the cells leading to a trickle of power at 20 years. What makes sense is to concentrate the sunlight using cheap mirrors and use the intense focused beam to provide energy. From PhysOrg News:
IBM Research Unveils Breakthrough In Solar Farm Technology
IBM researchers have achieved a breakthrough in photovoltaics technology that could significantly reduce the cost of harnessing the Sun's power for electricity.

IBM today announced a research breakthrough in photovoltaics technology that could significantly reduce the cost of harnessing the Sun's power for electricity.

By mimicking the antics of a child using a magnifying glass to burn a leaf or a camper to start a fire, IBM scientists are using a large lens to concentrate the Sun�s power, capturing a record 230 watts onto a centimeter square solar cell, in a technology known as concentrator photovoltaics, or CPV. That energy is then converted into 70 watts of usable electrical power, about five times the electrical power density generated by typical cells using CPV technology in solar farms.

If it can overcome additional challenges to move this project from the lab to the fab, IBM believes it can significantly reduce the cost of a typical CPV based system. By using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light onto each cell using larger lenses, IBM�s system enables a significant cost advantage in terms of a lesser number of total components.
A bit more:
The trick lies in IBM�s ability to cool the tiny solar cell. Concentrating the equivalent of 2000 suns on such a small area generates enough heat to melt stainless steel, something the researchers experienced first hand in their experiments. But by borrowing innovations from its own R&D in cooling computer chips, the team was able to cool the solar cell from greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius.

The initial results of this project will be presented at the 33rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists conference today, where the IBM researchers will detail how their liquid metal cooling interface is able to transfer heat from the solar cell to a copper cooling plate much more efficiently than anything else available today.
Very cool -- they already have the cooling technology in their datacenter servers, they just needed to scale it up a bit...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 16, 2008 9:22 PM.

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