September 21, 2010
100X Solar Energy Concentrator With Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes can concentrate solar energy from a larger area onto photovoltaic cells in a smaller area.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Using carbon nanotubes (hollow tubes of carbon atoms), MIT chemical engineers have found a way to concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular photovoltaic cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.

"Instead of having your whole roof be a photovoltaic cell, you could have little spots that were tiny photovoltaic cells, with antennas that would drive photons into them," says Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the research team.

The idea with solar concentrators is to come up with concentrators that cost much less per area covered than photovoltaic (PV) cells would cost for that same area. Then use much higher efficiency PV cells to focus the light onto. The higher efficiency cells cost more per area but cost less overall of they can cover a very small area but get solar power from a larger area.

Since so many ways to lower solar power exist I expect its costs to keep on falling. In the long run solar power will become very cheap. So electric power during the day in the summer will become cheaper than electric power the rest of the time.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 September 21 10:48 PM  Energy Solar

Phos said at September 22, 2010 4:21 AM:

The linked paper noted a 13% loss. They think they can get that down to 1%.

The nanotube array is described as a type of antenna. I wonder what would be the maximum power that the antenna can deliver. Also what would be the maximum size of the collector area.

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