[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story read the actual prototype of HyperSolar’s technology had been developed when, in fact, it is actually the design model for what will eventually be the proof of concept prototype. EarthTechling regrets the error.]
HyperSolar has announced that they have completed a design model for a solar concentrating prototype that is designed to fit over the top of conventional solar panels. According to the company’s CEO, Tim Young, the new technology can produce a 300% increase in light magnification. The technology is essentially a thin sheet that covers flat solar panels in order to boost sunlight directly to the solar cells below. Similar designs have been previously reported, as have innovations that redirect wavelengths silicon solar panels can’t absorb.
Over a year’s worth of research and development went into what will eventually be the prototype, which is only a single micro-concentrator module at the moment. In order to perform more substantial testing, the single module will be fabricated to a larger size so that it can be used in a variety of real-world scenarios. Based on information from the company’s website, it looks like the solar magnifier will replace the glass of traditional solar panels.
An acrylic polymer, the technology doesn’t increase the efficiency of a solar cell, instead it simply increases the amount of energy that solar cell receives using photonics. Based, in some ways, on fiber optic technology, photonics is all about focusing light in very exact ways. Imagine a grid of tiny magnifying glasses that collect sunlight into a routing layer that then sends the focused energy to the solar cell, possibly eliminating the need for solar tracking.
However, don’t confuse the technology to mean that the solar panel itself will have an increased output of 300%. Instead HyperSolar wants to decrease the number of solar cells needed in a solar panel.
Most solar cells are a crystalline silicon and expensive to produce. But while the company is smart to decrease the amount of solar cells needed in a solar panel, there’s no reason to believe that the technology will decrease the production of solar cells since society’s energy needs will no doubt continue to increase at an almost exponential rate over the next twenty years. Once ready to mass-produce, the HyperSolar concentrator is expected to be 1cm thick, but the company hopes to hit the half-centimeter mark with a 400% increase in light to solar cells.