Spinning solar cells boost electricity generation by a factor of 20

Solar cells work best when you leave them out in the sun all day. In order to leave them out in the sun all day, however, you have to leave them out in the sun all day, and most electronics will fry themselves when exposed to concentrated heat like that. Solution? Spin them right 'round, baby, and boost your juice by 20 times.

An effective way of increasing the output of traditional solar panels is by using what are called solar concentrators: lenses that collect extra sunlight and focus it onto photovoltaic panels. You can only do so much of this before things start to melt, though: with a 20x concentrator in full sunlight, your cell will last about ten seconds before succumbing to the 260 degree heat.

V3Solar's Spin Cell design takes advantage of the fact that it takes nanoseconds to convert light into electricity, but milliseconds (about a thousand times longer) to convert light into heat. By rapidly spinning solar cells in and out of direct sunlight, these Spin Cells can tolerate concentrators of anywhere from 20x to 75x without melting, boosting electricity generation per unit area by a corresponding amount. In fact, the temperature of the cells themselves never exceeds 95 degrees, which sounds quite pleasant to me.

The Spin Cells are about a meter high and a meter wide. They're conical in shape at an angle of 56 degrees, which maximizes their light gathering potential without needing an active sun tracking system. There's an outer shell to each cell (which is where the concentrator lenses are), and the inner shell holds the photovoltaic cells and spins. The spinning does take a little bit of energy, but with a maglev bearing and a helium atmosphere inside, it's not a significant loss. Also, since the thing is spinning anyway, it automatically converts DC power into AC power that's ready to be piped directly into the grid.

Typically, one Spin Cell can generate as much energy as five traditional flat solar panels, and in a much smaller footprint. That's the version with 20x concentrators, too; the 75x concentrators are still undergoing testing. It's probably safe to assume that Spin Cells will be significantly more expensive than traditional flat panel solar cells, and although we can't find specifics on pricing, if V3 manages to keep the cost of a Spin Cell under the cost for an equivalent number of flat panels, going with a smaller, more efficient, and much more exciting design will be an easy choice. And at least someone thinks Spin Cells are worth whatever they cost: V3Solar has licensed 800,000 of them for a huge new solar farm.

V3Solar, via Inhabitat and Gizmag

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