In Search of Better Solar Mirrors

"By using transparent superhydrophobic coatings on collector mirrors, we can create high performance and low maintenance concentrating solar power electricity generation," team leader Scott Hunter said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has funded two projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory seeking to improve the mirrors used on solar farms to collect power. ORNL announced that a team headed by Scott Hunter of its Nanosystems and Structures group in the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division was awarded more than $2 million by the department's SunShot Initiative Concentrating Solar Power program for a project titled "Low-cost self-cleaning reflector coatings for concentrating solar power collectors."

They seek to develope a transparent superhydrophobic coating that can be applied to the mirrors' surface to prevent dust from sticking to it. This will cut cleaning costs and maximize the amount of reflected sunlight from the collector mirrors.

"By using transparent superhydrophobic coatings on collector mirrors, we can create high performance and low maintenance concentrating solar power electricity generation," Hunter said.

Solar farms are concentrated in the Southwest, where sand and dust require thousands mirrors in a typical farm to be washed and scrubbed on a weekly basis with expensive deionized water. The new coatings could offer reduct cleaning and maintenance costs by as much as 90 percent while providing an up to 20 percent improvement in the average amount of reflected solar energy.

DOE awarded a second grant for $450,000 to the University of Colorado and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Employing ORNL computers, they will study high-temperature, inexpensive granular materials for concentrating solar power technologies.

For more information about the SunShot program, visit http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/ or http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/csp.html.

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