Solar tracking devices are usually part of the staff going unobserved in that long list at the end of a movie, but they still contribut to the main stars’ success. A Taiwanese company by the name of CN-J Technology invented a solar tracker that helps solar panels achieve their best, but that does not eat up precious electricity from the very panels they move.
A solar tracker regularly uses electricity because it’s powered by a motor. CN-J Technology’s tracker uses physics and a small optical sensor to keep the cell facing the sun at all times.
The system balances two weights whose masses vary with the amount of light hitting them. The two weights are actually two black cylinders filled with a fluorocarbon refrigerant (CFC), each cylinder having a pressure sensor. Each cylinder also has a piston that moves by the action of hydraulic pressure, changing the panel’s tilt.
Nikkei describes the working of the tracking system:
If sunlight drops on the solar tracking device when the panel is not facing the sun, one cylinder (cylinder A) receives a large amount of sunlight while the other (cylinder B) hardly receives sunlight. Then, because of the difference in the amount of received sunlight, the two cylinders have different temperatures and chlorofluorocarbon’s pressures. The temperature sensor detects the temperature difference and controls a regulator so that the orientation of the panel is changed by using the pressure difference to move the piston.Also read: This Device Extends Your Phone's Battery Lifespan Like Nothing Else. 5% Discount Code: GREENOPT
If the orientation of the panel changes too much and the cylinder B receives more sunlight than the cylinder A, the piston moves in the opposite way. When the panel is facing the sun, the two cylinders receive an equal amount of sunlight. Therefore, there is no temperature difference, and the piston does not move. In this way, the panel always faces the sun.
This ingenious system received the gold medal at iENA 2010 in Germany and uses far less electricity than a traditional solar tracking device.
My only objection to this technology is the use of CFCs. As far as I understood, the system has to be dismantled periodically and checked for leaks and eventually have the gas cylinders refilled. As to where the replaced CFC flows, that’s what’s troubling me. CFC is a gas with a far higher greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide and was banned from fridges a long time ago. I only wonder if the gas leaks don’t compensate the solar panel’s carbon savings and thus null the invention’s green kudos.