SBIR Phase I: Optoelectronic Solar Tracking Device
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
Meridian Deployment Corporation
40660 Las Palmas Ave, Fremont, CA, 94539-3714
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project investigates a novel optical element (OE) that uses liquid crystal (LC) in thin panels to steer sunlight. Any technology using focused sunlight must account for the motion of the sun. For decades this has been accomplished by physically moving the focusing optics and/or the target (a photovoltaic cell, for instance) so that the system is always aligned with the sun. This project develops a simple, motion-free tracking system where the refractive index of the LC is continuously varied with a low-voltage signal to keep the focused sunlight on the target as the sun moves throughout the day. The technology is applicable to any concentrated solar application. The project goals are to optimize design elements of the OE with respect to materials configuration and manufacturing technique, and to build prototypes for lab and field-testing. Phase 1 will address three interconnected design issues. These are 1) maximizing solar throughput of the device by eliminating unwanted reflections from various interfaces, 2) maximizing the acceptance range of solar incidence angles, and 3) lowering the cost of the finished device for commercialization. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be its effect on the economics of the energy sector, national energy security, and global climate change. The unique beam steering technology developed in this project will make on-site energy production more economically viable, which will have the immediate effect of reducing the amount of power drawn from the grid. This will lower the demands on centralized power plants, the vast majority of which produce electricity by burning fossil fuels, and on the aging transmission line infrastructure. Reducing the amount of electricity consumed in the U.S. will improve national energy security not only by strengthening the economy, but also by reducing the amount of fossil fuel the U.S. must purchase offshore. Reducing the amount of fossil fuel burned to make electricity will reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S., further mitigating the effect of global climate change.
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