Researchers from the Penn State University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and LUXeXcel Group of the Netherlands have developed a microscale concentrating photovoltaic, which is a solar concentration technology. The system makes use inexpensive optics to concentrate sunlight in a smaller package, which would allow for rooftop systems. The system combines miniaturized gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells, 3-D printed plastic lens arrays, and a moveable focusing mechanism. To focus sunlight on the array of cells, the researchers embedded them between a pair of 3-D printed plastic lens arrays. Each lens in the top array acts like a small magnifying glass and is matched to a lens in the bottom array that functions like a concave mirror. With each solar cell, sunlight is intensified more than 200 times. The total panel thickness is about a centimeter and the majority of it consists of acrylic plastic, which means the system has the potential to be inexpensive to produce. The systems makes sense for use in areas with lots of direct sunlight. In cloudy regions, such as the Pacific Northwest, concentrator systems cannot concentrate loses the efficiency advantage. The researchers tested their prototype concentrator panel outside over the course of a day in Pennsylvania. Even though the printed plastic lenses were not up to specification, they were able to demonstrate more than 100 times solar concentration.
Source: Penn State