Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a better and a compact method of laying out arrays of mirrors which tend to occupy a lot of space which could otherwise be utilised for various other purposes. Solar power stations tend to occupy a lot of room and needs either huge array of photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into electricity or mirrors which directs it towards boiler to create steam and drive a generator. The two researchers, Alexander Mitsos and Corey Noone began with their observation on the existing concentrated solar power plants, those which drove boilers known to have the mirrors placed in a way which resembles the seating at a cinema hall where the mirrors are in concentric semicircles facing a tower over which is the boiler and the turbine. However, this arrangement at time results in the mirrors shading each other, based on the position of the sun in the sky inspite of them being attached to robotic arms which track the sun as it moves.
Design Specifically Modelled on Nature
Report in Solar Energy states that Dr. Mitsos and Mr Noone discovered that they have a better option,that of dividing each of the mirrors in a real power plant, PS10, in southern Spain in around 100 pieces. Thereafter they plugged each of these pieces in a computer mode which could calculate all of the energy loss on noting the points where the mirrors were not oriented optimally to the sun as well as the places where they were a hindrance to one another with the blocking of incoming or the reflected rays. Then it was altered into a better arrangement. Earlier, efforts were made in stopping the mirrors shading each other which were intended to spread them out. Dr Mitsos and Mr. Noone were also keen in saving space and in doing so; they came across an unusual arrangement with the desired effect. The third researcherManuel Torrilhon, of Aachen University in Germany, on seeing the layout, recognised the spiral pattern in it, which urged the trio to test a design specifically modelled on nature.
Design – Fermat Signal
The design of the pattern was called Fermat spiral wherein each element was set at a constant angle of 137 degrees to the previous one which is familiar to the arrangement of the florets which make up a sunflower head. When their model was programmed by the trio researchers, to arrange PS10 mirrors in a segment in front of the towers from such spiral, they improved the efficiency of the collection process thus saving space. Improvement in efficiency though small around ½%, was more significant with regards to space by almost 16%. If the solar power makes up much of the world’sfuture electricity output, a lot of land will be needed for the power station. The latest discovery will reduce that need by a sixth which would be a great gain and would also show that there is really nothing new under the sun.
The outcome of this concept of solar plant is awaited with plenty of hope for future energy demand.