Now even 3M is getting into the solar biz. The huge Minnesota company is famous for the Post-It Note and other mainstays of Western civilization, but now their excellent materials scientists have been put to work creating a reflective foil that can be used to make the (already rather cheap) mirrors in solar thermal trough technology – even cheaper, through mass production.
They are not the first midwestern US giant of industry to enter this field. Alcoa also has a way to make the mirrors in solar thermal trough technology cheaper, through the use of aluminum for the mirror.
3M’s solution is to make a sticky-backed polymer sheath that protects a micro-layer of highly reflective copper and silver. Their new film would reflect more light than traditional mirrors, increasing power output in a given area.
It could reduce the cost of a solar thermal plant “hundreds of millions of dollars”. Nevada Solar One was built recently and it cost $250 million – so a cost reduction of hundreds of millions sounds exciting! (A percentage of cost reduction might be more helpful). This stuff would cost about $20 a square yard.
3M technicians already have a great deal of experience in creating various types of solar reflective film for controlling heat and light on windows (both for buildings and for the auto industry), so this is a natural addition for the company.
As the new clean energy economy begins, we’ll see more of these sorts of unlikely entrants bringing their talents into the renewable energy business.
Source: Technology Review
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