IBM Invents Super Cheap Solar Technology

Solar energy is child’s play. Just use a magnifying glass in the sun and you’re generating energy in a jiffy. It’s what scientists at IBM are doing. They’ve launched what they claim to be breakthrough solar energy which is among the cheapest solar solutions around.

The scientists say they create five times more energy by concentrating the sun’s power through a lens. One square centimeter of solar cell produces as much as 230 watts of energy, the most ever in solar techology.
Having only just pioneered the technology, IBM says it will now focus on commercializing it at an installation cost of less than two dollars per watt. The company believes that it should be possible to produce systems even cheaper than that. The reason that IBM is so confident about this is pure maths; by using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells and concentrating more light onto each cell, they’ll ultimately need less total materials than your average solar farm.
One major hurdle that IBM scientists have yet to tackle is temperature control. Due to the high sunlight concentration – light of the equivalent of 2,000 suns are concentrated- temperatures are also going to be extremely high. The scientists say they will borrow innovations from other IBM R&D staffers specializing in cooling computer chips.

4 responses

  1. How does this compare to standard (mirror-based) CSP?
    We already know that non-concentrated solar power is not particularly effective.

  2. Hi Meryn,
    I just checked what the regular technology conversion rates are. I don’t think that the mirror based technology can be compared with the IBM technology because it’s mainly used for heating up water rather than straight conversion into energy, which is what IBM plays at.
    But of all of the solar technologies in use for electricity creation, the solar dish/stirling engine to date is said to have the highest energy efficiency. A single solar dish-Stirling engine installed at Sandia National Laboratories National Solar Thermal Test Facility produces 25 kW of electricity, with a conversion efficiency of 30%.
    I would imagine that IBM’s 230 watt per square cm exceeds that. Correct me if I am wrong.

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