One of the main deterrents to widespread solar technology adoption is cost: solar systems typically cost a few thousand dollars to install, leading many to shy from embracing the savings they sometimes offer. The most expensive component of solar equipment is the solar concentrator, components such as special lenses and curved mirrors that strengthen the sunlight hitting solar cells. For electrical engineering Ph.D. student Jason Karp, the solution to shattering this solar adoption barrier was simple: create a solar concentrator design that is less expensive yet equally as effective as current tech.
“The new solar concentrator collects sunlight with thousands of small lenses imprinted on a common sheet,” explains Eureka Alert. “All these lenses couple into a flat ‘waveguide’ which funnels light to a single photovoltaic cell.” Karp and his colleagues, who won the 2010 Rudee Research Expo Outstanding Poster Award, built a working prototype utilizing only two primary components, which reduced materials, assembly, and alignment.
In an interview after receiving his Rudee Research award, Karp confirmed that cost was his impetus in designing the concentrator. Karp’s discussion of his solar concentrator design is available on YouTube.