A material with optical properties that change to help it capture more incoming sunlight could cut the cost of solar power in half, according to Glint Photonics, a startup recently funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).
Glint's adaptive material greatly reduces the cost of a tracking system used in some types of solar power. It changes its reflectivity in response to heat from concentrated sunlight in a way that makes it possible capture light coming in at different angles throughout the day.
It's well known that focusing sunlight makes it possible to use smaller, cheaper solar cells. But this is usually done with lenses or mirrors, which must be moved precisely as the sun advances across the sky to ensure that concentrated sunlight remains focused on the cells. The equipment required for that and the large amount of steel and concrete needed to keep the apparatus steady makes the approach expensive.
Glint's light concentrator has two parts. The first is an array of thin, inexpensive lenses that concentrate sunlight. The second is a sheet of glass that serves to concentrate that light more?up to 500 times?as light gathered over its surface is concentrated at its edges.