Concentrating on Solar

Concentrating sunlight has the potential to provide cost-effective, large-scale electricity generation. Concentrated solar energy can also be used to provide an economical heat source for a range of applications.

Solar concentrators are a key factor in the growth of these industries, and scientists at the University of Oxford have developed a novel solar concentrator energy system that uses two simple reflective surfaces to generate high concentrations together with a stationary focus.

Concentrating Solar Energy

Solar energy can be harnessed to provide renewable electricity and process heating. The efficiency of these systems can be increased by focussing the solar energy using solar concentrators.

For process heating applications, temperatures of 150 to 400oC or higher are typically required. In order to produce higher temperatures, high concentration factors must be achieved, requiring the use of solar concentrators that use two axis tracking. Current systems require 3D reflector designs, which are expensive to manufacture, and assemblies that are problematic to implement. This reduces the ability of currently available solar concentrators to provide a cost-effective and practical solution.

The Oxford Invention

Researchers at the University of Oxford have developed an improved solar concentrator energy system complete with mounting systems which allow simple and efficient two axis tracking. The invention features:

  • Single curvature reflector assemblies for ease of manufacture, transport and storage
  • High concentration factors (>1000)
  • Lightweight and cost-effective mounting and tracking system
  • Ease of assembly, even at remote locations
  • Configurations that allow the solar receiver to remain stationary

The scope of the invention is wide-ranging, encompassing any applications that involve utilising concentrated radiation from the sun. These include the direct absorption of solar radiation and the use of heat generated by solar radiation.

Readiness for Market

Small-scale prototypes of the solar concentrator have been built for domestic Solar Cooker applications. Field trial and performance data of the small-scale design are available to support the development of industrial scale reflector configurations. Solar tracking mechanism designs are also available to licensees. The reflector configurations and solar tracking mechanisms are the subject of international patent applications.

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