FRIDAY 29 APRIL, 2011 |
New Polymer Solar Power - Thermal Device Unveiled
A new polymer-based solar-thermal device developed by the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake
Forest University can generate power from both heat and visible sunlight. The
concept could potentially slash the cost of home heating by as much as 40
The new device incorporates a heat-collecting fluid and an integrated solar cell
to generate electricity. Standard rooftop solar
can only capture a small part of the sun's power and around 75 percent of
is wasted by normal photovoltaic systems as the cells are unable to longest wavelengths of light
- infrared heat.
The solar-thermal device developed at Wake Forest University consists of an
array of 5 millimeter diameter tubes with a special fluid containing oil and
proprietary dye flowing through. Visible sunlight shines into the tubing and is converted to electricity by a spray-on polymer photovoltaic
substance applied to the back of the tubes. In the process, the oil is also heated to
very high temperatures, flows into a heat pump and then can be used to transfer
the heat inside the home or to heat water.
The curving of the tubes provides an additional benefit - the ability to collect
infrared heat and visible light for a much greater part of the day than a
standard solar cell.
The design of the cell also allows for flexibility in implementation and could be made
into roofing tile form; offering a truly building-integrated solar power
Testing of the solar-thermal device has demonstrated a 30 percent efficiency in converting solar
power to usable energy; whereas a standard polymer absorber based solar cell
performs at up to just 8 percent conversion efficiency.
The next step in the device's development will be the research team constructing
a square-meter-size solar-thermal cell around the middle of this year, an
important step in preparing the technology for the commercial market.
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