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Sustainable Energy

Developing Efficient Solar Concentrators

A new way to concentrate sunlight could make solar power competitive with fossil fuels.

  • by Kevin Bullis
  • August 19, 2008
  • To begin making the solar concentrators, a researcher measures powdered organic dyes into small vials, where they will be mixed with solvents to make ink.
Next, various inks are mixed together and poured onto a 10-centimeter glass sheet perched on a spin-­coating machine. This is done in a sealed box, to protect the researchers from inhaling the solvent.
When the glass is spun at 2,000 revolutions per minute, the ink spreads evenly and the solvent evaporates. The concentrator is complete and ready to be connected to solar cells.
Solar cells in the form of thin strips are mounted inside a frame. The cells line up with the edges of the solar concentrator and convert escaping light into electricity. In this prototype, a larger solar cell underneath captures red and infrared light that passes through the glass.
This story is part of our September/October 2008 Issue
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Artificial sunlight illuminates a solar concentrator attached to a single thin solar cell for testing.

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