Engineers have developed a new type of hybrid solar energy converter, which uses energy from the Sun to create both electricity and steam. The device reportedly has high efficiency and runs at low cost, allowing industry to make use of a wider spectrum of solar energy. New Atlas reports: The device looks like a satellite dish, with a small device suspended over the center of a parabolic collector. The dish part is mirrored, and focuses the sun’s rays onto the box in the middle. The bottom of this section contains multi-junction solar cells, which collect and convert visible and ultraviolet light into electricity. But the clever part is that these cells redirect the infrared light — the heat energy — to a separate thermal receiver, higher up in the device. This receiver is essentially a cup-shaped cavity surrounded by pressurized water, which captures the heat and turns into steam.
The team says that the total collection efficiency is 85.1 percent, meaning a very high amount of the Sun’s energy is converted into either electricity or heat. The steam can be heated up to 248C (478F), which is a much higher temperature than many other thermal energy collectors. This means it’s hot enough for many industrial processes, such as drying, curing, sterilizing, and pasteurizing. The other advantage is cost. The team reports that once scaled up, the hybrid device could run for as little as 3 cents per kilowatt hour. The research was published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.
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