Researchers have designed a new solar power module that uses a curved mirror to focus sunlight onto a 5-inch glass ball that then spreads the light evenly across a solar panel, leading to twice the power output of traditional solar panels when combined with high-efficiency solar cells. The design was inspired by telescope technology and the high-efficiency solar cells used by space agencies.
One of the most interesting parts of the system is the mirror. The researchers came up with a dish-shaped mirror design that works very well for concentrating sunlight specifically for photovoltaics, as opposed to a solar thermal system.
The panels are created out of solar cells that are usually only used in spacecraft. These cells capture a wider range of the solar spectrum than regular cells. The ball lens is coated to maximize transparency for the suns rays. When put together with the mirrors, this system works very well to concentrate light on the the solar cells, but it also concentrates a bunch of heat. So the researchers designed a cooling system consisting of fans and a radiator that keeps the array within 36 degrees of the outdoor temperature.
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