A team of scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been developing a brand new solar energy technology that is about to revolutionize the way we collect and distribute solar energy. Rows, or stacks, of pivoting lenses built into a glass building facade track the movement of the sun across the sky, focusing its rays onto high-tech solar cells.
The new system uses high-tech solar-concentrator technology and advanced materials. The full-size prototype will be incorporated into a new building at The Center of Excellence in Syracuse, New York.
The key breakthrough of the invention is the miniaturized concentrator solar cell, which uses a lens with concentric grooves to focus the collected light. The lens is only the size of a postal stamp, while the current solar panel sizes are 4×4 feet. They also say that the new solar cell concentrator uses both the light and the heat concentrated from the Sun’s energy.
Some microchannels posed at the base of the module transfer the heat energy and the light to wires contained inside. Each vertical stack of lenses rolls and tilts like a track blind, keeping the lenses’ surface faced to incoming sunlight as the sun changes its position on the sky throughout the day.
Incorporating these new cells into arrays could make solar energy an option that is competitive with other energy sources, reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. The efficiency of these solar panels is said to be around 80%, compared to 14% of those existing today.