IBM Tries Its Hand at Concentrated Solar With 5,000x Collector
April 22, 2013 10:42 AM
comment(s) - last by
Your scouter isn't reading wrong -- that's one powerful parabolic dish
, one of the tech industry's oldest and most savvy firms -- International Business Machines, Inc. (
) -- announced a joint project with top Swiss research university
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
(ETH Zürich) and
Airlight Energy Holdings
SA, a Swiss-based solar firm, to develop a better parabolic dish for
concentrated solar power
I. Trio Aims For Super-Cheap Dish Solar Power
Fueled by a $2.4M USD grant from the
Swiss Commission for Technology
, the trio is chasing lofty goals -- 80 percent conversion efficiency and the ability to concentrate sunlight to intensities up to 2,000 times the natural levels.
The major upside to this kind of solar power --
High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT)
– is that it cuts down on the surface space of the photovoltaics (and hence the amount of pricey rare earth elements needed). Stumbling blocks include the inherent complexity of designing the concentrating mechanics and the
The prototype device is a multi-facet
, whose mirrors track the sun. The mirrors beam the concentrated sunlight onto multiple microchannel-cooled 1 centimeter x 1 centimeter chips, each of which can produce between 200 and 250 watts on a sunny day. 100+ of the chips are combined to produce around 25 kilowatts of power per dish.
Professor Aldo Steinfeld
of ETH Zürich is using advanced ray tracing simulations to craft the control algorithms to precisely precision the mirrors for maximum harvest.
IBM is aiming for costs under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour with its news dish system.
[Image Source: Airlight/IBM]
But the microchannels are where the greatest "magic" happens. Versus the passive air cooling of some previous concentrating solar systems, the microfluidic system is just tens of micrometers away from the chips, allowing them to stay virtually unheated at 2,000 times sunlight, according to the project team. The system can concentrate up to 5,000 time sunlight without melting.
II. Microfluidics Research is Paying Off for IBM
This is the second major project where IBM and ETH Zürich are teaming up to use the new microfluidic system, which was originally designed at the
Egypt Nanotechnology Research Center
. The pair is also working to build a supercomputer -- dubbed
-- based on the new cooling tech.
The super-concentrated solar power is enabled by IBM's microfluidic channel technology.
[Image Source: IBM]
The researchers hope to deploy the system at a cost of under $250 USD per square meter, and at a cost-per-kilowatt-hour of <$0.10 USD/kWh. That would be pretty incredible, given that coal power is currently $0.05-0.10 USD/kWh in many regions.
A key to cutting the cost is that only the chips/controllers/and motors are manufactured offsite. Airlight CTO Andrea Pedretti describes, "The design of the system is elegantly simple. We replace expensive steel and glass with low cost concrete and simple pressurized metalized foils."
III. Clean Drinking Water to Boot
Better yet, the team hopes to use the cooling system to
provide fresh drinking water
. The water heats to 90ºC in the microfluidics, vaporizing. It then passes through a series of porous membranes that block salt, leaving only fresh water.
Generating drinking water would reduce the capacity of the system, but researchers estimate the system could produce 30-40 liters of drinkable water per meter, per day, while still producing 2 kWh of power per day per meter (roughly a 25 percent efficiency). Thus roughly two meters of dishes could produce enough water daily to sustain one person.
A 2 sq. meter system produces enough clean drinking water a day for one person to live on.
[Image Source: National Geographic]
The thermal system also can be hooked up to an absorption chiller, which replaces energy-intensive compression chillers (which often use ozone-depleting fluids). The chiller uses silica gel to achieve a unique cooling thermal cycle.
The combination of cleaning drinking water, cooling, and power production -- three crucial needs of desert regions -- make this solar system a seemingly promising one. With prototypes currently under testing in Switzerland, the team hopes to soon see it deployed to regions like the southern Europe, Africa, Arabic peninsula, the southwestern part of the United States, South America, and Australia. The team also expects its lightweight, cost-effective nature will make it a promising solution for tropical island tourist destinations.
IBM/ETH Zürich/Airlight [Press Release]
AP on Yahoo! News
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
4/22/2013 12:26:00 PM
"POWAH LEVEL 50,000!?!?!?!?!?!"
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
Capillary Condensation Used to Recover Water from Diesel Exhaust
April 7, 2011, 9:19 AM
Hotel Accidentally Makes Solar "Death Ray", Burns Lawyer
September 29, 2010, 3:11 PM
Judge Kills Huge Californian Solar Project, Appeal Pending
November 6, 2008, 7:38 AM
MIT Students Develop Revolutionary Solar Dish That is Hot Enough to Melt Steel
June 21, 2008, 3:30 PM
Massive 280 MW Solar Plant Coming to Arizona in 2011
February 28, 2008, 10:45 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Researchers Hope to Find "Exotic" Lifeforms Inside Crater of Dinosaur Killing Meteor
April 14, 2015, 8:47 PM
Mathematician's Sociological Formulation May Explain the "Hipster Paradox"
April 14, 2015, 1:13 PM
Cool Science Video: This is What a McDonald's Burger Looks Like in Your Stomach
April 7, 2015, 1:43 PM
Most Popular Articles
Exclusive: If Intel and Micron's "Xpoint" is 3D Phase Change Memory, Boy Did They Patent It
July 29, 2015, 10:52 PM
Quick Note: Apple Watch to Get Brick and Mortar Boost From Best Buy
July 27, 2015, 3:00 PM
As iPad Sales Wane and Watch Flops, iPhone Saves Apple's Profit With Its Heroics
July 22, 2015, 6:13 PM
Editorial: Reddit Allows Itself to be Hijacked as a Hate Platform For Racist Bigots
July 21, 2015, 6:32 PM
Microsoft July 29 Windows 10 Launch: Freebies, Rollout, and What's Next
July 21, 2015, 2:40 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information