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IBM Invents Way to Both Cool Down Concentrated Photovoltaics and Desalinate Water


IBM is seemingly more and more concerned about green technologies, and now invests in a project that can solve the problem of cooling solar cells that would otherwise be hard to use because of the high temperatures they’re exposed to (120°C), aka concentrated photovoltaics.

Concentrated photovoltaics, as you may already know, use lenses to focus light onto very tiny pieces of solar cells. Whereas a normal solar cell may not be exposed to ultra-high temperatures during its lifetime, CPVs bear light intensities of up to 1,000 times the normal values – that’s why it gets so hot.

IBM’s Research Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, has developed a system that not only cools down the cells used in CPV systems, but also use the heat to desalinate seawater basically for free.

Their “ultra-high concentrated PV” is a hybrid solar panel that uses an idea imported from cooling computer chips. Water-filled microchannels do the cooling job much more efficiently because they’re very close to the heat source.

They used a 1-centimeter PV cell and applied light intensities of up to 5,000 times the normal amount, while keeping the cell’s temperature down to 70 to 90 degrees Celsius. Plans of building a 10-square-meter prototype in Egypt already exist and there’s a team taking care of them at the Egypt Nanotechnology Center in Cairo, electronicsweekly reports.

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