This is an excerpt from the November 29, 2012: Eight solar ARPA-E awardees, SunShot’s game-changing industry impact, and Tracking the Sun V release edition of the SunShot newsletter.
ARPA-E Funds Eight Transformational Solar Research Efforts
On November 28, eight solar research efforts were announced among 66 projects receiving funding through the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) "OPEN 2012" program. These eight projects are part of a $130 million investment in cutting-edge research encompassing 11 technology areas in 24 states. The OPEN 2012 projects represent transformational technologies that show fundamental technical promise but are too early for private-sector investment.
Led by teams from universities, industry, and national labs, the following projects were selected to receive a total of more than $14 million to focus on solar energy breakthroughs:
- California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California): $2,400,000 to develop an optical device that focuses and splits sunlight into individual color bands to improve the efficiency of solar electricity generation. Once light is separated into colors, CalTech's tailored solar cells match each separated color band to dramatically improve the overall efficiency of solar energy conversion.
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia): $3,600,000 to develop a high-efficiency solar reactor to produce solar fuel. Using liquid metal, the reactor transports heat away from the sunlight-collection point to a chemical reaction zone, minimizing the loss of solar heat. This system would enable cost-effective solar fuels that can be used for transportation and continuous electric power generation.
- Glint Photonics, Inc. (Menlo Park, California): $523,172 to develop a solar concentrator that can capture the full amount of available sunlight regardless of the sun's position. Unlike today's technology, this concentrator does not require complex moving parts to track the sun’s movements. Glint's inexpensive design uses an automatic optical system of fluid layers that adjust their positions in response to solar heat.
- MicroLink Devices (Niles, Illinois): $3,316,705 to develop high-efficiency solar cells to capture concentrated sunlight with a unique blend of crystal layers in an innovative design. These cells will improve concentrated photovoltaic products to increase the amount of energy generated from solar power plants. MicroLink will use sophisticated manufacturing techniques to allow for reuse of expensive growth templates to minimize costs normally associated with high-performance solar cells.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado): $890,000 to develop a solar thermal electric generator to directly convert heat from concentrated sunlight to electricity using a new generation of thermoelectric materials that can operate at higher temperatures and efficiencies. The new materials and advanced engineering designs could convert solar heat to electricity at three times the efficiency of current systems.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado): $800,000 to develop a new approach to enhance the efficiency of low-cost plastic solar cells using specially engineered photonic structures to capture a larger part of the solar spectrum. NREL's approach could triple the efficiency of plastic photovoltaics, enabling the adoption of this low-cost, clean, and renewable electricity source.
- Otherlab, Inc. (San Francisco, California): $1,600,000 to develop an inexpensive method to reflect sunlight onto a solar tower using small mirrors. Many of today's mirrors are 20 to 30 feet tall, making them difficult to stabilize and rotate. Otherlab's hydraulic drivers, made with low-cost plastic parts, precisely position smaller energy-collecting mirrors to dramatically lower solar field costs.
- University of California Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, California): $1,624,030 to develop an innovative optical device for harvesting concentrated sunlight into optical fibers, solar cells, and thermal storage devices, which maximizes use of the solar spectrum. The optical device uses unique thin-film materials and structures to transfer and transform concentrated sunlight with minimum losses compared to traditional light-concentrating optics.
For a complete list of the 66 OPEN 2012 projects, see the DOE press release.