Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Clean Power

“Greenhouse Gas” Technology Goes to Work for Low-Cost Solar Power System

MIT uses greenhouse gas technology for low cost concentrated solar systemA team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has come up with a way to lower the cost of solar energy, by mimicking the same effect that enables greenhouse gases to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The new technology could eventually lead to powerful concentrated solar energy systems that don’t rely on the huge arrays of mirrors that are required in conventional systems.

Making More Solar Power without Mirrors

Instead of using mirrors, the MIT researchers fabricated a crystalline material arrayed with precisely spaced microscopic holes. Sunlight can enter the holes, but most of the radiation can’t find its way out by the same route. That’s because holes are configured in such a way that the rays must reflect back at precisely the right angle in order to escape. Think of a high-tech lobster trap of nanoscale proportions, and you’re on the right track. David L. Chandler of MIT News compares this approach to the greenhouse effect, in which radiation from the sun is admitted to the Earth’s atmosphere and is trapped there.

Many Routes to Low-Cost Solar Power

According to Chandler, the new material – called photonic crystal – could be manufactured using standard processes that are used to fabricate chips. That could give the new device a cost advantage over mirror-based technologies, which require precise optics to boost efficiency. The idea is that simplicity of manufacturing plays a key role in determining the installed cost of solar power, an approach that President Obama’s SunShot solar power initiative aims to encourage.

No Last Hurrah for Mirrors in Solar Energy

Despite the potential of the new technology, mirrors will most likely remain an important part of the low-cost solar toolkit. Another team at MIT, for example, is developing a low-cost concentrated solar system that positions mirrors on a hillside to focus sunlight downwards. That reduces the amount of pumps, piping and other complexities of conventional systems that aim

sunlight upwards, at a tower. As for optics, the aluminum giant Alcoa is working on concentrated solar systems using low-cost mirrors made of – what else – aluminum, with comes with the advantage that most of the installation could be easily recycled when it’s time for replacement.

Image: Greenhouse effect.  Some rights reserved by Global Jet.

Follow on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

An R&D team at Fraunhofer ISE has unveiled a new solar cell stringing machine that can boost cell performance 2% by using electrically conductive...

Clean Power

Maverick pneumatic solar tracker maker Sunfolding has amassed a pipeline of 60 megawatts for the first quarter of 2019, following its 2018 commercial rollout,...

Clean Power

San Diego has an untapped 500 megawatt solar potential at commercial sites within the city, with parking lots representing three-quarters of the total, according...

Clean Power

The ancient air bellows has been repurposed once again, to drive solar tracker arrays created by Sunfolding, of San Francisco, in a 39 megawatt...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.