IBM Solar Collector Magnifies Sun By 2000X – These Could Provide Power To The Entire Planet

IBM Solar Collector Magnifies Sun By 2000X – These Could Provide Power To The Entire Planet

Basically, the upper limit of solar efficiency has to do with dissipating the extra heat safely. Current solar panels can only take so much energy before they start overheating. IBMs tech here is to use micro-channels of water to cool the panels while simultaneously desalinating the water. The extra water can either be reused or used elsewhere.

Edit: Please note that I am neither qualified nor able to answer any further questions. My speculation is that he desalination doesn't occur within the micro-channels themselves but rather ruducing the cost of steam trap desalination by raising the temperature to almost boiling beforehand. Dealing with the resultant brine is an inherent factor of any desalination.

How is this diffrent from other solar collectors?

Dont they all work this way?

It doesnt corrode everything. Maybe they are working on a material that isnt susceptible to hot saltwater corrosion.

Besides, this is /sub/futurology, isnt everything pie-in-the-sky?

As I understand it, yes.

Water tends to be useful for other things and reasons.

It is a pretty damn cheap liquid, coolant, and heat sink.

Two Years Old news?

This article is terrible. I understand it less for having read it

Aren't there already systems in use that use an oil with a higher boiling point than water to boil water after having been heated by parabolic mirrors

Seems like the tech has been around for a bit. But comparing the pics in your link to the OP's link, I would say a lot of progress has been made.

It's like two years ago they made a spec car for a auto show and today they released the car itself.

Water also induces corrosion, especially when it is mineralized and heated. See: Car radiators.

This is why no one should link to pie in the sky websites.

edit: The reason I raised this issue was not to cause a shitstorm over the viability of the design. The fact of the matter is you have a reddit bum (me) pointing out "but muh mineralized water corrosion," and there is nothing in the kumbaya article that discusses how such a basic issue would be overcome. "It's high school level science you bring up, they know what they're doing." OK, then why isn't it addressed in the article?

Water also induces corrosion, especially when it is mineralized and heated. See: Car radiators.

Wow! Someone call IBM, /u/DienekesIV remembered about the corrosive effects of water, an elementary and basic attribute of impure water that scientists at IBM surely never conceived of!!

What's next? Will you figure out that the whole point of this design of system was to also desalinate?

Can we stop with the sensationalist titles/articles? I'm all for optimism, but it's diminishing the subreddit's credibility.

If you're interested, this one's a lot better.

The system can concentrate the sun’s radiation 2,000 times

Should I keep reading?

Great point, friend! I can't believe someone at IBM hadn't thought of that! Having no doubt failed to predict and compensate for the corrosive effects of seawater, they might as well just scrap the whole project.

edit: fair rebuttal, citizen; the article should've done more to address the obvious potential issues

More like made a spec for an autoshow and today they showed the concept car.

It is likely that they are going to use materials that are not going to corode. I think that we should use these things as inspiration to the future instead of using it as a crystal ball to what the future will be.

Right now we are speculating on speculations made by people who have not fully explained the subject matter and its possible pitfalls and oversights.

This is why no one should link to pie in the sky websites.

Isn't that the point of this sub!?

Surprisingly, yeah. The sentence is bullshit and backed up nowhere in the article, which by default does make it a shitty article, but after that it mostly talks about the cooling systeem which should have been the headline in the first place.

You just described a problem to be solved, not a reason why this will never happen. This is how progress works.

capable of concentrating the power of 2,000 suns

But we only have 1

Millions down the drain, foiled by grade school level knowledge regarding the properties of the most abundant resource on the planet.

I don't think this "IBM" start up is going to make it.

it's diminishing the subreddit's credibility.

To be fair.. this sub lost credibility months ago. This is exactly the type of article I've come to expect from /sub/futurology.

If I want real science I go /sub/science.

When I want to imagine things that might be feasible under just the right circumstances- I click on a /sub/futurology link.

So which costs more? A passive planar array, or a water cooled tracking dish? Which lasts longer, a solar cell at ambient temperature or one under forced cooling at 250C?

This is another great technology that could provide power to the entire planet for free!

please tell me i'm not misreading

They mean 2000 times as concentrated, not 2000 times the whole sun.

But I will always have faith in Redditors who think that a company that every year creates the most number of innovation patents, invented impressive technologies like Watson and pulled in 92 billion in revenue doesn't do a whole lot.

The other major difference is that it's mostly build using components that can be manufactured everywhere using local materials (for example the base is cement, the mirrors are thin plastic dishes with metal foil applied, slightly curved using vacuum - nothing too complicated)

They plan only to make the high tech components in Switzerland, and let local people compete on making the rest.

So this could lead to nice reduction in cost.

They explain it here :

Much more efficient. Traditional solar panels lose a lot of the energy that they could potentially collect, this loses a lot less. Therefore you would need a much smaller area to set up your solar farm and then power a much larger area. Also, the benefits of the sterile water that it would produce could seriously help out underprivileged areas of the world.

"Highly Available Light" is just a ruse. The acronym HAL is actually derived from the previous alphabet letters to IBM. Clever bastards.

They may not corrode but these microchannels will be lined with mineral deposits and be rendered useless.

It was on the front page so it's possible that this person had no idea what sub they were in.

The IBM team that developed this HCPVT system is operating under the guidelines of an IBM philosophy called 'Highly Available Light.' Another IBM team operating under this same philosophy will aim to provide for the total energy requirements of the human race by harnessing the power of 9000 suns in a project dubbed HAL 9000. Although this project was dismantled in 2001, it was roundly supported by the American government. Many have speculated the project has since continued under another name.

You would have to normalize your comparison, something like $/MJ. If this technology can produce way more energy, it may then be more cost effective. Solar panels payout after something like 20 years, and have a very low return.

There were car engines that used a passive cooling system (e.g. classic vw beetle), but its much more effective to have a cooling system in the car engine (all modern cars have them).

It varies a lot based on location and the cost of power. If it was 18 months everything would be solar.

Panels only have a 'lifetime' of around 25 years. Although that measures when they reach %80 efficiency so they can still be used beyond that.

Of course they keep halving in price (more up to date info). So those stats are old. It also means investing in solar now might not be worth it, it could be financially better to just spend more on power now and buy solar panels later when their much cheaper, ideally at the point where the price reduction is less than or equal to the monthly power bill (although there is installation costs).

Although it varies based on the long term cost of power and if there is some new technology over that period of time. For example Lockheeds fusion reactors, General Fusion's one, or the other fusion reactors, alternative solar systems (concentrated), magic or just much more efficient, longer lasting, cheaper panels.

Exactly, because look at what a flop car radiators turned out to be.

Most solar collectors are designed to concentrate sunlight to heat water which turns to steam and drives a steam turbine, just like most coal, gas or nuclear power plants. This one uses photovoltaics, like the panels you'd put on a house, so the light is generating electricity directly by charge separation. Concentrating that much sunlight would usually destroy the photovoltaic materials, but this design prevents that by using water cooling in tiny channels. But, rather than just cooling the panels they use salt water and turn it into fresh water at the same time. That boosts the efficiency even more because you're using even more of the energy that you've collected for a useful purpose.

If you were to do the same thing using flat photovoltaic panels, you'd have less intense sunlight so less efficient solar to electric conversion, and if you wanted to desalinate water you'd lower the efficiency even more because you'd have to convert the electricity to heat to boil the water.

Can we add some graphene so we know it'll be just around the corner and amazing

So you could almost say things are progressing.

Aluminum most certainly does corrode in seawater.. As soon as it is electrically coupled with almost any other metal.

This is dumb as rocks.

There is an upper limit of about 1350 W/m2 on solar energy. They aren't getting 9000 suns by putting a magnifying glass over their solar panels. That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.

Writing tip: if you want to underscore how large a large number is, try adding a comma-spliced "that's huge" after it.

"The national debt is $18 trillion, that's huge." "23 people died in the attacks today, that's huge." "I found $20 under my couch today, that's huge."

Yeah I'm sure something could be arranged for that. Really, with the power that this thing is generating, there's probably more than enough to provide for a water pumping system that would send water to people's homes. Although ~30-40L of water wouldn't last too long depending on the size of the town / village. Much better than where some places are at currently.

There's a lot of cool stuff in the system that could be used to better the lives of many people. Renewable energy is obviously critical to the future of the earth.

The one thing I disagree with in the article (the most) is that they said it's free energy. No way in hell. More like a cash cow for IBM - and I wouldn't blame them one bit. Nothing is free, including the creation of this technology :) Sorry - a little bit of rambling included for you in my response

Its a very poorly written article, what does that even mean?

hey now, that's just too positive a comment for this subreddit

Solar and wind could power the whole planet if we had the technology to store large power for later use. Until then, we are stuck with power sources that can be turned off and on.

If you are a human made of 80% water then 80% of this comment is corrosion and we can only accept 20%.

But what if they put a magnifying glass... IN FRONT OF THE MAGNIFYING GLASS!

4,000,000 Suns!

I go on /sub/futurology to read fan fiction for the TV show Fringe.

If only there existed some way of removing ionized minerals from water that isn't hanging on the wall of my laundry room like some sort of magical membrane.

This article did an ok job explaining the subject material to the lay reader all the way up until that last paragraph where it then nearly convinced me to shoot myself in the face for having read such garbage.

Edit: That's a long sentence. I don't care. Deal with it.

I thought IBm was done with Micro-Channel Architecture!