Solar power has long been hailed as a clean and renewable source of energy. However, the high costs and technological challenges have hindered its widespread adoption. A breakthrough in solar power generation comes from the development of a parabolic trough collector by an international team led by Armin Buchroithner from Graz University of Technology. This collector utilizes cost-effective photovoltaic cells to generate both electricity and thermal energy simultaneously.

The solar module developed by the team consists of a trough-shaped concave mirror that focuses the sun’s rays onto the photovoltaic cells arranged in the focal line. Unlike traditional solar panels, the waste heat from the solar cells is not wasted but instead transferred to a heat transfer fluid that flows along the back of the cells in a system of pipes. This innovative design maximizes the energy output of the system and opens up opportunities for various industrial applications.

Collaborating with the Turkish research center GÜNAM, the team has developed silicon solar cells that are not only cost-effective but also robust enough to withstand the high temperatures of concentrated sunlight. This is crucial, as the parabolic trough mirrors amplify the solar irradiation by a factor of 60 to 120. By optimizing the cooling system of the solar cells, the waste heat generated can be utilized for further applications, making the system even more efficient.

Armin Buchroithner believes that this innovative approach has the potential to make a significant contribution to the energy transition. While traditional parabolic trough solar power plants have been limited to sunny regions like Spain or the Persian Gulf, Buchroithner’s team has demonstrated that this technology can also be beneficial in regions with lesser sunshine, such as Austria. By replacing fossil fuels in industrial processes, this technology could pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future.

The development of a parabolic trough collector that combines power generation and thermal energy represents a significant advancement in the field of solar energy. With technological innovations that reduce costs and increase efficiency, this system has the potential to revolutionize the way we harness solar power. By generating electricity and heat simultaneously, we can not only reduce our carbon footprint but also create new opportunities for sustainable industrial processes and building climate-neutral systems. The future of solar energy is bright, and innovations like these are leading the way towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Technology

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