Clean Power

Published on December 23rd, 2013 | by Jake Richardson


Solar Ball Lens Improves Energy Efficiency 35%

December 23rd, 2013 by  

A solar power concept employing a clear ball lens coupled with a support structure that has tracking on two axes is an aesthetic design for a clean energy generator. A liquid-filled sphere acts as a solar concentrator to focus sunlight on a betaray energy collector. It can also be combined with a stirling engine.

Image Credit: Rawlemon

German architect André Broessel is the designer. He says his system has a greater energy efficiency than regular PV solar panels and that it can generate four times the electricity on a cloudy day. He also says his technology can concentrate sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times.

Applications such as EV chargers, energy-producing windows, and autonomous power generators are potential uses. The design is still in the prototype phase, so there doesn’t appear to be any specs released such as power (kW/MW) capacity, weight, or cost.

Multiple smaller ball lenses can be placed side by side, as well. This array is called MicroTrack and a press release from 2012 shared some details: “MicroTrack will be available in Europe in July 2013, in the US and Asia late 2013, with a suggested retail price of €2.599 per square meter and minimal power output of 140 Watts in façades. Built-in to order options for multimedia LED technology include the ability to upgrade from one basic to three basic colors, with additional suggested retail price of €599 for the one basic color and €649 for the three color module.”

Broessel’s innovations were nominated for the World Technology Network Awards in 2013. Rawlemon is the name of his company.

Startups sometimes pivot, moving suddenly in a new direction because they stumble upon some new insight that requires such a change. This solar ball lens and support structure might be scaled down for home applications such as charging consumer electronics like cell phones and laptops.

There’s a lot of criticism that the price is too high for the value offered, and it is a sign of potential trouble that the 2012 press release noted that the product would be released at the end of 2013 but it is not yet on the market.

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  • Bill McMahan

    It would be helpful if an output figure in KW/hour was listed for each size unit. Also a cost/watt listing.

  • Jim Nelson

    A sterling engine? You mean a locomotive made out of solid silver?
    Or could you be thinking of a Stirling engine?

  • Benjamin Nead

    Something along these lines has already been marketed. Instead of a single large sphere or a handful of slightly smaller ones, the idea presented was to make plastic spheres the size of tiny decorative beads – say, a millimeter or so in diameter – and space them a few millimeters apart from each other, embedded in a thin, clear plastic sheet. A Japanese concern, Kyosemi, came up with this and calls it Sphelar . . .

    I was particularly intrigued by photos I saw of this Sphelar film encapsulated between two sheets of glass and configured as energy harvesting windows.

    A quick search of the web, using “sphelar” as a keyword, indicates this product was profiled on numerous green technology sites like this one a few years ago and that Kyosemi’s corporate web sites remain. But my attempts to contact them by email this past year have gone unanswered.

    There is at least one affordable commercial product that uses these panels, though, a marvelous toy solar car called the Volta Racer . . .

    The version of the panel they use is encapsulated in thin aluminum sheets on either side, with the top (sun exposed) side perforated to expose the Sphelar balls.

    I bought a Volta Racer and can heartily recommended it as a great toy. Germaine to this discussion, though, I noted that the panel has amazingly good off axis response. I took the toy car outside on a sunny day, turned it completely upside-down while holding it in my hand and noted that ambient light reflected off of a paved carport kept the panel active enough to keep the car’s electric motor turning at a respectable rate. I don’t know of a similarly sized conventional PV panel that could have done this.

  • James Van Damme

    This is art, not engineering.

  • JamesWimberley

    The water makes this inherently very heavy, which translate to massive supports and over-engineered tracking motors. Why not just line the sphere with reflectors?
    What Omega Centauri says on the economics. CPV is a solution to a problem, the high cost of solar cells, that went away. Concentrating *thermal* has a chance because of hot salt storage.

    • JustAnotherPhysicist/Engineer

      The sphere is rotating, not translating so only the static base need to support the weight and the motors do not need high torque. The only other tracking motors move the very light weight receiving module along 2 axis. Solar cell efficiencies are much higher under high energy conditions, the curve is non-linear. This design does appear to have many advantages.

  • Omega Centauri

    Looks more like something you’d expect to see in a sculture park or art museum. A sphere would not give you a good focus, so I’m guessing its an odd warpped water filled ball. Just another CPV platform, with a heavy and expensive but very elegant looking concentrator. But, CPV has highly doubtful economics.

  • Assmaa Almaairgy

    Oh ,never seen something like that before ,These solar ball lens is absolutely adorable …

  • Senlac

    Here is the data sheet and another article, apparently the plastic balls are not hard to make and don’t have to be perfect. You get both heat and electricity.


    Data sheet.

  • Marion Meads

    So what is the basis of efficiency of this contraption?

    It should always be the total energy produced of the system divided by the total sunlight energy intercepted by the whole area occupied by the system. No voodoo math please, just the bottom line.

    • Bob_Wallace

      So what is the basis of efficiency of this contraption?


      But, hey! It comes in three colors!!!

      • Marion Meads

        When someone mentions efficiency, there should be a context under which it was computed. If none is given, I IMAGINE that it would be from the most over hyped method that give the highest value but is otherwise useless for computing the energy production per unit land area when scaling up.

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