Self-tracking Solar Concentration

Zagolla, Volker (Zagolla, Volker Günter)
Advisors: Moser, Christophe; Tremblay, Eric

Solar concentration is intended to decrease the cost of expensive solar cell material by replacing the solar cell with a focusing optical system as the initial receiving aperture. This reduces the amount of solar cell material needed but adds the need of tracking to the entire system in order to keep the smaller solar cell at the focal spot. In state of the art concentrators, precise tracking (less than 1°) is needed in two directions to cover diurnal and seasonal variations. This adds to the cost of the system, diminishing the savings from the smaller solar cell, and consumes energy which in turn decreases the overall system efficiency. A self-tracking concentrator has the potential to increases the tolerances of the system (less precise tracking needed) and cover seasonal variations (only tracking in one dimension remains). Self-tracking makes use of the energy of the spectrum that is typically not utilized in PV, thus self-tracking does not consume an outside surplus of energy. During the thesis such a self-tracking system was developed. This thesis describes two concepts for the realization of a self-tracking concentrator, one of which is then developed into a working demonstration device with an angular acceptance of 32° (±16°). The work covers both the development of these two different mechanisms as well as an analysis of their performance as a single element and a discussion of their performance as part of a much larger device. The first concept, the micro-fluidic concentrator, uses vapor bubbles to efficiently couple light into a liquid waveguide (chapter 3), while the second concept, based on a phase change actuation uses the thermal expansion of paraffin wax to create a coupling feature at a waveguide (chapter 4). Based on the findings, the phase-change concentrator was then expanded into a self-tracking concentrator with a possible effective concentration of 10x (chapter 5). As a result this thesis shows the feasibility of a self-tracking concentrator and describes in detail the processes and techniques for its realization. Future work based on the designs presented in this thesis can optimize the concepts. Simulations show that a system based on this approach can achieve 150x effective concentration by scaling the system collecting area to reasonable dimensions (30 x 1 cm²). An optimized optical system can then also increase the acceptance angle of the self-tracking concentrator to the ±23° needed in order to cover seasonal variations. In addition, the presented concept is based on earth abundant, inexpensive materials, making it technologically and economically viable to extend it to much larger formats.

    Keywords: solar concentration ; self-tracking ; waveguide

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 6498 (2015)
    Programme doctoral Photonique
    Faculté des sciences et techniques de l'ingénieur
    Institut de microtechnique
    Laboratoire de dispositifs photoniques appliqués
    Jury: Prof. H.P. Herzig (président) ; Prof. C. Moser, Dr E. Tremblay (directeurs) ; Prof. J. Ford, Prof. D. Psaltis, Prof. H. Zappe (rapporteurs)

    Public defense: 2015-3-13


    Record created on 2015-03-04, modified on 2016-08-09


Related material