Researchers from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in UAE are developing a low-cost concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) system which can track and concentrate sunlight onto high-efficient solar cells.
The proof-of-concept research project aims to develop and commercialize self-tracking CPV system which can track the sun without expensive mechanical systems and potential to be placed on rooftops.
Masdar Institute research engineer Harry Apostoleris said: "Traditional CPV systems rotate solar panels to face the sun using a mechanical tracker that is both expensive and too big to put on rooftops.
"We are trying to accomplish this tracking through a flat system that does not move, by changing only the optical properties of the collector, not its physical orientation."
The proposed sun-tracking system acts like a box, featuring an opaque, waxy material made of a silicone and paraffin composite.
The researchers said that using a lens in front of the box the sunlight is directed onto a small area of the transparency-switching material, creating the optical ‘hole’ or transparent area. This allows the sun’s infrared and visible light to enter the hole on the box’s surface.
As the sun moves, the hole also moves to allow the sun light to hit the device continuously.
The reflected rays are then blocked and are utilized by high-efficiency PV cells.
Masdar Institute mechanical and materials science engineering associate professor Matteo Chiesa said: "The only thing holding CPV back from widespread residential use is its large size and high upfront costs.
"Our CPV system is compact, stationary and made of low-cost materials – which are key requirements for distributed PVs."
The development of a next-generation CPV technology is a part of Masdar Institute’s effort to find low cost sustainable, clean energy alternatives.
Image: Masdar Institute research engineer Harry Apostoleris demonstrates the new self-tracking CPV system. Photo: courtesy of Tahra Al Hammadi/ Masdar Institute News.