Creating a custom lenslet array for CPV

Summary of the project

Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) is a photovoltaic technology that generates electricity from sunlight. To incorporate CPV on rooftops, the size of the panel has to decrease significantly. In order to enable CPV for rooftop purposes researches combined photovoltaic cells with a 3D printed plastic lens array to create a rooftop proof CPV system. It reduces not only the size and weight, but also to total costs of the CPV system.

In order to direct the sunlight on the CPV cells efficiently, researchers made use of two custom 3D printed lenslet arrays. One array was used as a refractive surface collimating the light, and the other was coated with a reflective coating reflecting the collimated light from the first lenslet array onto the microcells. Combining the refractive lenslet array with the concave mirror array at the bottom, the sunlight is focused efficiently. With this technique the sunlight is intensified 200 times, which makes this test setup highly efficient.

The outcome of the research is not only that the panels could be produced smaller, and with less weight, making it suitable for rooftops, but because the panels can be placed with a very small distance between the next panel. Even outperforming fixed microtracking concentrating photovoltaic panels on efficiency per square meter.

This showcase project is featured in Nature Communications journal and can be downloaded here: Jared S. Price, Xing Sheng, Bram M. Meulblok, John A. Rogers & Noel C. Giebink. Wide-angle planar microtracking for quasi-static microcell concentrating photovoltaics. Nature Communications 6, Feb 2015. doi:10.1038/ncomms7223

Why did Pennstate University choose to incorporated Luxexcel printed optics in their research?

Noel C. Giebink stated: “We selected printed optics by Luxexcel because it is a true enabling technology that allowed us to rapidly and inexpensively prototype and test our concept. The main benefit of printed optics for CPV is rapid prototyping and testing of initial concepts. The quality of the printed optics is sufficient for proof of concept”.

The video below explains the main concepts of the research.

The challenges of CPV

CPV systems operate most efficiently in concentrated sunlight, as long as the solar cell is kept cool through use of heat sinks.
Diffuse light, which occurs in cloudy and overcast conditions, cannot be concentrated. To reach their maximum efficiency, concentrated photovoltaics systems must be located in areas that receive plentiful direct sunlight.
The design of photovoltaic concentrators introduces a very specific optical design problem, with features that makes it different from any other optical design. It has to be efficient, suitable for mass production, capable of high concentration, insensitive to manufacturing and mounting inaccuracies, and capable of providing uniform illumination of the cell.

Download an abstract of the research.

Collaboration with Luxexcel

Bram Meulblok, Technical Sales Manager: “I have enjoyed working together with Penn State, and have appreciated my contacts with Jared Price and Chris Giebink. They are very serious in their research, and we were happy to help secure the funding by stating that we would be a supplier on the project. We have learned from their research, and as a relatively new company we appreciated the chance to work together on this research project. Off course I also thank them for offering me the possibility to be a co-author on the publication”.

Luxexcel is always open to research institutes, hoping we can facilitate by delivering our printed optics within a very short timeframe, offering quick and affordable iterations, and in that way help improve design optimization.
Research projects are always on a critical timeline and budgets are most of the time limited.

Luxexcel believes research can improve our world, and with our 3D printed optics prototyping and manufacturing of small-/mid-size volumes we hope we can contribute to:

  • More efficient solar panels (CPV)
  • Less light pollution (LED lighting)
  • Reduction of obsolete inventory (Order on demand)
  • Reduction of obsolete tooling (NO need for tooling)
  • Minimize the time to market (fast and affordable trial and error possibilities, and design optimizations)
  • Customized solutions, for each project

We selected 3D printed optics by Luxexcel because it is a true enabling technology that allowed us to rapidly and inexpensively prototype and test our concept. The main benefit of printed optics for CPV is rapid prototyping and testing of initial concepts.

Noel C. Giebink

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