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Engineers use nanoparticles to boost solar thermal’s heat absorption

07/04/2011 Comments off

Moody sun burst hovering over a trough at Kram...

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Mechanical engineers at Arizona State University are experimenting with graphite as a cheap way of augmenting the efficiency of solar thermal systems by improving the heat-absorbing properties of liquid used for generating steam.

“We estimate that this could mean up to $3.5 million dollars per year more revenue for a 100-megawatt solar power plant,” said Robert Taylor, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Arizona State University.

The team from Arizona State University turned their attention to the solar thermal collectors, an essential part of a solar thermal power system, also known as concentrating solar power systems. The collectors focus sunlight to heat liquid that makes steam which drives a turbine to generate power.

“The big limitation of PV panels is that they can use only a fraction of the sunlight that hits them, and the rest just turns into heat, which actually hurts the performance of the panels,” said Mr. Taylor. In contrast, solar thermal collects and uses the heat which would be lost by PV.

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