Fixed-tilt concentrating photovoltaic panels that will deliver significantly more energy than conventional photovoltaic solar panels are the aim of Penn State's solar energy research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for $2.9 million.
The funding is part of $24 million in federal funds designated to develop new solar panels that more efficiently convert sunlight to electricity. Penn State's grant comes from ARPA-E's MOSAIC (Micro-scale Optimized solar-cell Arrays with Integrated Concentration) program that seeks to develop a new class of concentrating photovoltaic technology to exploit the high-efficiency of solar cells used in space for rooftops here on earth.
Chris Giebink, assistant professor of electrical engineering, leads a team composed of Chris Rahn, professor of mechanical engineering, Penn State; John Rogers, professor of materials science and engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Semprius, Inc., a photovoltaics company located in Durham, N.C.
The team will combine arrays of plastic lenslets and a novel translational tracking system to concentrate light over 400 times onto microscale, ultra-high efficiency photovoltaic cells all in the form of a standard rooftop solar panel. The new panels, which consist mainly of plastic like Plexiglas, have the potential to be manufactured at competitive cost and could double the efficiency of existing solar panels in sunny regions of the United States.