Science, Science and Tech

The future of energy in a crystal ball

With increasing concerns over the rapidly dwindling levels of fossil fuels, and the dangerous and pollutive extractive techniques being used, such as fracking, more and more novel sustainable energy methods are being developed, with many centering around the idea of collecting power from the sun.

crystal

Given that enough solar energy reaches the Earth in one hour to power all of humanity’s energy needs for a whole year, being able to tap this fully would be hugely beneficial. One such design hoping to make inroads towards this goal is the brainchild of the German architect André Broessel, the ß.ray Outdoor Charging Station. Resembling a giant glass marble lodged in a sling, the actual collection and conversion of light into electrical energy is based off a very similar system to those photovoltaic cells currently in use.

What makes it unique is the giant water filled sphere, which acts as an enormous magnifying glass, concentrating the light which strikes it by ten thousand fold. It works so efficiently, that it can even generate power from concentrated moonlight.
The cradle the magnifier rests on can adjust its positioning to track the light source, and optimize it’s output, much like the systems employed on the large solar farms currently in operation. In addition, since the solar cells the beam hits are very similar in design to those currently in commercial use, the system could be used with those currently in place to boost efficiency, and the tests run on the current prototype show a rate of energy production of 150 watts per square meter at maximum efficiency.

While the design of the lens necessitates that it be near perfectly spherical, a difficult shape to produce en masse, the relative low cost of base materials of glass and water used to construct it means that Broessel hopes that this can be combined with long term energy saving measures to prove that solar energy can be a viable and sustainable method of providing power to the world.

14/01/2014

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dominicburchnall



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