The sun radiates more energy to the earth in one hour than what all humans on earth consume in one year. Unfortunately, conventional produced solar energy is a factor of four times too high to compete with conventional electrical power production, so this abundant, clean energy has been relegated to the "alternative" market. Because of all its positive properties and potential to revolutionize energy production, the development of a technology that advances solar power into a competitive position with fossil fuel has been the holy grail of renewable energy.
One of the most significant problems associated with conventional concentrating solar arrays is capturing the intense energy of sunlight without overheating the cells. Unlike conventional concentrator solar arrays that are modeled after notoriously heat-sensitive computer chips, eQ arrays™ are modeled after the most efficient, effective natural solar energy collectors: Leaves.
Leaves efficiently convert sunlight into energy. They are tough and resilient with networks of microscopic vessels are enclosed in layers of flexible supporting tissue. Because the network of vessels and their support tissue structures are highly flexible, they do not break when bent or twisted. Small scrapes, cuts or punctures, do not result in prolonged fluid leakage because the leaf compensates by closing off damaged cells. This is also how eQ arrays™ work. They are thin and flexible and an integrated scheme of fault correction devices ensures the operation of the entire array even if a cell is damaged. To understand how the eQ arrays™ concentrate sunlight, consider rain droplets on a leaf.
Water droplets on a leaf function as tiny optics, concentration sunlight up to 1000 times. Yet, no thermal damage occurs to the leaf because the drops are so small and the heat removal over the short distances is rapid. eQ arrays™ are unique because they are manufactured with Sphelar® cells, low grade silicon micro-beads rather than layers of expensive high-grade semiconductor material. By combining other micro-optics in the form of micro-mirrors with the Sphelar® cells, an eQ solar array mimics the natural process of droplets magnifying sunlight.
The array can be produced as discrete cells, electrical connections, and mated with micro concentrating mirrors and lenses (Patent Applications PCT/US2007/015623, US 11/825,681, Taiwan 96124657, PCT/JP2006/313577, Taiwan 95139005).
We have built simple demonstrations that show that seven to 28 times better semiconductor utilization can easily be achieved. Using these results we have estimated that volume produced systems with tracking arrays could be achieved at a cost of $700 to $280 per kilowatt. This breaks the cost barrier for practical solar electricity.