CleanEnergyAuthority.com: Boston College, MIT develop more efficient solar thermal electric panel

Posted in Solar Panel, Solar Thermal by TenagaSurya on May 5, 2011


CleanEnergyAuthority.com >  Solar Energy News > Boston College, MIT develop more efficient solar thermal electric panel

New solar technology boasts higher efficiency than other solar thermal systems

Chris Meehan
MAY 03, 2011
By now, most of us know the term photovoltaic—solar radiation converting sunlight into electricity—but there’s a new term we might need to become familiar with: thermoelectric, the process of directly converting heat from the sun, or other sources, into electricity.
A team of researchers at Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are creating high-efficiency solar thermoelectric devices, which convert the sun’s heat into electricity.
Thermoelectric sounds like another solar technology that’s increasingly gaining popularity—solar thermal—but it’s different. Solar thermal projects concentrate sunlight on a fixed point and uses a medium to move the stored heat energy to a place where it can be converted into electricity by superheating water into steam and using the steam to turn a turbine that generates electricity—ultimately the same process that natural gas and coal-fired power plants use to generate electricity.
But the thermoelectric method converts sunlight directly into electricity, without needing a secondary thermal conductor.
The device won’t be on your rooftop tomorrow, but the research is promising, producing a device that could both provide electricity and hot water for homes, residences and more, according to the researchers.
The team used nanomaterials and an optical concentrator to focus sunlight on the device, and they coupled it with a hot-water heater to cool the thermoelectric aspect of the device to keep it producing electricity efficiently.
The team of MIT and Boston College researchers have developed a device that converts solar thermal heat into electricity at a higher efficiency rate than previously possible—and also heats water.
“We first collect the Sun’s radiation and convert it into heat, and immediately convert the heat into electricity via thermoelectric materials,” said Boston College Professor of Physics Zhifeng Ren. “For efficient electricity conversion using thermoelectric materials, we need to cool them, that’s where the hot water is generated.”
Ren and the team of researchers published their work, “High-performance flat-panel solar thermoelectric generators with high thermal concentration,” in Nature Materials this week.
The device they’ve developed encases a thermoelectric device in a vacuum to increase its efficiency, according to Ren.
“Our electricity generation is 7 to 8 times [higher than] the previous record due to better thermoelectric materials, thermal concentration and operation in vacuum,” he said.
Photovoltaics only provide power from the sun’s visible spectrum of radiation. The thermoelectric devices use the range of the sun’s spectra.
“It captures the whole solar spectra and converts it into heat through the selective surface and then converts the heat into electricity via thermoelectric materials,” he said.
CleanEnergyAuthority.com: Boston College, MIT develop more efficient solar thermal electric panel


2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. TenagaSurya said, on May 5, 2011 at 8:02 pm


  2. G. McDermid said, on May 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Alright. Just finished the 1st chapter on my kindle and thought I was reading a forward because Dan keeps referring to himself in the third person and its tripping me out. I mean, who does that. “Dan likes to work with clients one room at a time”, “as in all of Dan’s books, this book contains a resource guide”, “Dan encourages those who are building solar…..”
    He’s written a lot of books, I wonder if he does this in all of them. It’s just down right annoying. I know he wrote the book so why does he have to make it sound like someone else is telling you his thoughts and opinions.

    4/14/11 Update: Just finished the book, and yes, the 3rd person thing is a little odd but it is a good book with easy to understand information about powering your house with the sun and the different options for doing so. It’s definitely not a do it yourself guide, but doesn’t claim to be.

    It’s good at convincing reader that going solar is possible and a lot easier than one would think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: