Congratulations to Jason Karp, the electrical engineering PhD student who won the top prize at Research Expo 2010.
His Project: a New Solar Concentrator Design
A new solar concentrator designed by electrical engineering Ph.D. student Jason Karp cuts the number of required photovoltaic cells and could lead to less expensive and more environmentally friendly solar installations. Existing high-efficiency solar cells incorporate optics to focus the sun hundreds of times and can deliver twice the power of rigid solar panels. But these systems typically use arrays of individual lenses that focus directly onto independent photovoltaic cells which all need to be aligned and electrically connected. In contrast, the new solar concentrator collects sunlight with thousands of small lenses imprinted on a common sheet. All these lenses couple into a flat “waveguide” which funnels light to a single photovoltaic cell. The engineers from the Photonic Systems Integration Laboratory led by electrical engineering professor Joseph Ford built a working prototype with just two primary optical components, thus reducing materials, alignment and assembly. This solar concentrator is compatible with high-volume, low-cost manufacturing.