Revolutionary Solar Technology Produces Heat and Clean Energy

Revolutionary Solar Technology Produces Heat and Clean Energy

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A group of international researchers developed a new type of solar module that can produce both electricity and heat from the sun – with a curved mirror that concentrates the sunlight onto a row of photovoltaic cells, it converts the light into electricity while the excess heat from the cells is transferred to a fluid that can be used for heating or cooling. It is called ECOSun—Economic Cogeneration by Efficiently Concentrated Sunlight.

The concept behind this module has been known since the 70s but has so far never been implemented successfully due to high costs and technical challenges. The researchers managed to overcome these obstacles by introducing three major innovations.

According to Interesting Engineering, the first innovation uses strong and cost-effective silicon solar cells that can withstand the high temperatures of the concentrated sunlight being amplified by a factor of 60 to 120 by the parabolic trough mirror.

The second innovation is the mirror manufactured by IMK Solarmirrotec, which was made using industrial production methods that reduce costs and increase efficiency.

The third innovation is the optimization of the cooling system, which allows the waste heat from the solar cells to be used for many different applications (like climate-neutral heating and cooling of buildings or industrial processes). The heat is reportedly transferred to a fluid that flows along the back of the cells in a system of pipes and can then be either stored or distributed.

Armin Buchroithner, who led the designing process, claims this approach can significantly contribute to the energy transition as a clean, sustainable, independent solution to supply electricity and heat. “Given the rising energy prices and the desire for energy independence, the importance of independent, efficient, and cost-effective solutions for the supply of electricity and heat is increasing,” he says.