Device can heat home, save money

Apr 19, 2011
Device can heat home, save money

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new polymer-based solar-thermal device is the first to generate power from both heat and visible sunlight – an advance that could shave the cost of heating a home by as much as 40 percent.

Geothermal add-ons for pumps on the market today collect heat from the air or the ground. This new device uses a fluid that flows through a roof-mounted module to collect heat from the sun while an integrated solar cell generates electricity from the sun’s visible light.

“It’s a systems approach to making your home ultra-efficient because the device collects both and heat,” said David Carroll, Ph.D., director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest. “Our solar-thermal device takes better advantage of the broad range of power delivered from the sun each day.”

Research showing the effectiveness of the device appears in the March issue of the peer-reviewed journal Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells.

A standard, rooftop solar cell will miss about 75 percent of the energy provided by the sun at any given time because it can’t collect the longest wavelengths of light – infrared heat. Such cells miss an even greater amount of the available daily solar power because they collect most efficiently between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“On a rooftop, you have a lot of visible sunlight and heat from the infrared radiation,” Carroll said. “The solar-cell industry has for the most part ignored the heat.”

The design of the new solar-thermal device takes advantage of this heat through an integrated array of clear tubes, five millimeters in diameter. They lie flat, and an oil blended with a proprietary dye flows through them. The visible sunlight shines into the clear tube and the oil inside, and is converted to electricity by a spray-on photovoltaic on the back of the tubes. This process superheats the oil, which would then flow into the heat pump, for example, to transfer the heat inside a home.

Unlike the flat used today, the curve of the tubes inside the new device allows for the collection of both visible light and infrared heat from nearly sunrise to sunset. This means it provides power for a much greater part of the day than does a normal solar cell.

Because of the general structure and the ability to capture light at oblique angles, this is also the first solar-thermal device that can be truly building-integrated – it can be made to look nearly identical to roofing tiles used today.

Tests of the solar-thermal device have shown 30 percent efficiency in converting solar energy to power. By comparison, a standard solar cell with a polymer absorber has shown no greater than 8 percent conversion efficiency.

The research team will build the first square-meter-size solar-thermal cell this summer, a key step in getting the technology ready for market.

Explore further: Harvesting energy from walking

More information: Optimization of inverted tandem organic solar cells, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, Volume 95, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 921-926 doi:10.1016/j.solmat.2010.11.023

Related Stories

Desert power: A solar renaissance

Apr 01, 2008

What does the future hold for solar power? “Geotimes” magazine looks into more efficient ways of turning the sun’s power into electricity in its April cover story, “Desert Power: A Solar Renaissance.”

Nanoparticles improve solar collection efficiency

Apr 05, 2011

Using minute graphite particles 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, mechanical engineers at Arizona State University hope to boost the efficiency -- and profitability -- of solar power plants.

Recommended for you

First self-contained step dimming LED tube

8 hours ago

Samsung Electronics today introduced the industry's first AC Direct step-dimming LED linear replacement for T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Convention ...

Battery system will be able to light 2,500 homes

9 hours ago

One of the largest, most environmentally-friendly, battery-based energy storage systems in the nation will be installed at the University of California, San Diego the campus announced today (Sept. 29).

NREL software tool a boon for wind industry

11 hours ago

Wind energy is blowing away skeptics—it's so close to achieving cost parity with fossil fuels that just a little extra efficiency is all that is likely needed to push it into the mainstream and past the ...

Harvesting energy from walking

12 hours ago

A device that fits into a shoe harvests the energy made by walking and successfully uses it in watch batteries.

User comments : 16

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bfast
Apr 19, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2011
$ per kWh is?
CapitalismPrevails
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2011
Also how durable would this new solar tech be? It looks kind of flimsy
Newbeak
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2011
The Cyclone engine is the real deal,but the Rossi fusion process is more than likely snake oil.Popular Science did a piece on it: http://www.popsci...kthrough
PinkElephant
not rated yet Apr 19, 2011
$ per kWh is?
Won't be known 'til this thing is commercialized (never mind mass-produced and/or outsourced.)
Also how durable would this new solar tech be? It looks kind of flimsy
Spray-on polymer photovoltaic? I'd guess not too durable (particularly given how much heat it's going to be exposed to.) And polymer photovoltaics don't generate a whole lot of power (the bulk of that 30% efficiency figure must be derived from the hot-water application of this device.)

Still, if it comes down to a choice between these "green" roof tiles vs. ordinary roof tiles, the choice seems pretty clear. Though personally, my wet dream consists of a green roof (with shade-tolerant grass or low-growing brush) and some omnidirectional solar/heat cells installed above it: the best of all worlds.
Beard
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
The Cyclone engine is the real deal,but the Rossi fusion process is more than likely snake oil.Popular Science did a piece on it: http://www.popsci...kthrough


That article is ancient. Recent testing of the device by independent Swedish scientists has shown that it's pretty much physically impossible for it to be a fake.

He's going forward with commercialization, so we'll know for sure by October.
ZephirAWT
Apr 21, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ZephirAWT
Apr 21, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
The Cyclone engine is the real deal,but the Rossi fusion process is more than likely snake oil.Popular Science did a piece on it: http://www.popsci...kthrough


That article is ancient. Recent testing of the device by independent Swedish scientists has shown that it's pretty much physically impossible for it to be a fake.

He's going forward with commercialization, so we'll know for sure by October.

Do you have a link to the work of these Swedish scientists? If cold fusion was found to work by accredited scientists,and replicated in other respected institutions,it would make headlines the world over.
beelize54
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
If cold fusion was proved to work by accredited scientists,it would make headlines the world over.
You apparently didn't understand the situation. If it could make headlines the world over, it would already do it a three weeks ago.
Beard
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
Do you have a link to the work of these Swedish scientists? If cold fusion was found to work by accredited scientists,and replicated in other respected institutions,it would make headlines the world over.


pesn.com/2011/04/07/9501805_Rossi_Cold_Fusion_Validated_by_Swedish_Skeptics_Society/

peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Andrea_Rossi%27s_Cold_Fusion_Energy_Catalyzer_%28E-Cat%29:_Frequently_Asked_Questions
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
Do you have a link to the work of these Swedish scientists? If cold fusion was found to work by accredited scientists,and replicated in other respected institutions,it would make headlines the world over.


pesn.com/2011/04/07/9501805_Rossi_Cold_Fusion_Validated_by_Swedish_Skeptics_Society/

peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Andrea_Rossi%27s_Cold_Fusion_Energy_Catalyzer_%28E-Cat%29:_Frequently_Asked_Questions

Thanks for the links.Unfortunately,it still doesn't explain the lack of interest by the mainstream science community.Perhaps when/if Rossi's devices are sold and perform as advertised,it will force the hand of the major research organizations into doing further investigation.
beelize54
Apr 24, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
beelize54
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
IMO the volume of theoretical physicists could be reduced into 1/10 without affecting the future of human society at all. It's possible, without most of contemporary physicists the human society would even evolve faster, because the existing physics represents a huge drain of money and resources, which slows down the evolution in more perspective areas. The contemporary physics is too separated from reality and formal theory oriented, which is the consequence of the cold war nuclear research and armament race in the technology of cosmic flights. During cold war era the theoretical physicists got the money and social importance, which they don't deserve - now they're posing a social problem of their meaningful employment, because they're not interested about practical aspects of physics and their theories are essentially useless. The really working theories of particle physics (Heim's theory) were developed before years and ignored, just because they're working too well.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
I still prefer the scientific method over loopy fringe theories.We would not have the benefits of modern life (long distance air travel,the internet ,modern medicine and everything else) without the careful,evidence based investigations by researchers whose work is peer reviewed.Peer review is critical to the advance of science-if nobody can replicate your findings,what you are reporting is a statistical artifact or some other one-off observation.
beelize54
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
When the physicists can destroy something, they're incredibly fast and effective. Just compare it: it took just six years from finding of uranium finding to the usage of working prototypes of nuclear weapons. Whereas the cold fusion findings are more then twenty-five years old and although their implementation is quite easy (it's merely consists of scaling up) - we have no apparent progress yet. It's all about motivation of physicists and fossil lobby of government, which is not motivated into development of distributed energy sources. The cold fusion case is the billboard of ignorance and the shame of contemporary physics.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
Yes,they built the first fission bombs in record time,but again,they used and built on established physics,not flaky theories unrelated to the established chain of knowledge.People like Oppenheimer DID express moral misgivings about what they had developed,but the two atom bombings did bring the bloodiest war in history to an end,and probably saved about a million American casualties if an invasion of the Japanese home islands had be necessary,not to mention the casualties on the Japanese side.
bg1
not rated yet Apr 24, 2011
Can the heat be used to run and absorption refrigeration machine?
Beard
not rated yet Apr 25, 2011
I still prefer the scientific method over loopy fringe theories.


That's completely rational. Rossi and Focardi are not currently patent protected and so must keep the catalyst in their reaction secret. Their patent application was denied because they don't actually know exactly how their machine works. Obviously peer reviewing and reproducibility are impossible right now, like I said before: If it succeeds commercially in October, the world will know the truth.

The implications are enormous if it's true. The very definition of "Black Swan".
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 26, 2011
Scams such as Blacklight Power and Steorn have been in business for years now.As far as Rossi and company are concerned,I'll believe it when I see it.