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08/09/2011

Duke Engineer Builds Hybrid Solar Power System

 
Hybrid-Solar
While roofs across the world sport photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a Duke University engineer believes a novel hybrid system can wring even more useful energy out of the sun's rays.

Instead of systems based on standard solar panels, Duke engineer Nico Hotz proposes a hybrid option in which sunlight heats a combination of water and methanol in a maze of glass tubes on a rooftop. The system produces hydrogen much more efficiently than current technology without significant impurities. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used on demand in fuel cells.

For his analysis, Hotz compared the hybrid system to three different technologies in terms of their exergetic performance. Exergy is a way of describing how much of a given quantity of energy can theoretically be converted to useful work.

"The hybrid system achieved exergetic efficiencies of 28.5 percent in the summer and 18.5 percent in the winter, compared to 5 to 15 percent for the conventional systems in the summer, and 2.5 to 5 percent in the winter," says Hotz, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Like other solar-based systems, the hybrid system begins with the collection of sunlight. Then things get different. While the hybrid device might look like a traditional solar collector from the distance, it is actually a series of copper tubes coated with a thin layer of aluminum and aluminum oxide and partly filled with catalytic nanoparticles

"This set-up allows up to 95 percent of the sunlight to be absorbed with very little being lost as heat to the surroundings," says Hotz. "This is crucial because it permits us to achieve temperatures of well over 200 degrees Celsius within the tubes. By comparison, a standard solar collector can only heat water between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius."

Once the evaporated liquid achieves these higher temperatures, tiny amounts of a catalyst are added, which produces hydrogen. This combination of high temperature and added catalysts produces hydrogen very efficiently, Hotz said. The resulting hydrogen can then be immediately directed to a fuel cell to provide electricity to a building during the day, or compressed and stored in a tank to provide power later.

The hydrogen system is also more cost effective than other models

"We performed a cost analysis and found that the hybrid solar-methanol is the least expensive solution, considering the total installation costs of $7,900 if designed to fulfill the requirements in summer, although this is still much more expensive than a conventional fossil fuel-fed generator," Hotz says.

The paper describing the results of Hotz's analysis was named the top paper during the ASME Energy Sustainability Fuel Cell 2011 conference in Washington, D.C.

Solar Energy Discovery Could Yield 35% Efficiency Boost

Plastic Films for Solar Cells



 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
09/15/2014

Researchers have developed a new process to help cloud computing systems use less energy while continuing to provide high levels of data services.

09/12/2014

Researchers have found the main factors that influence the amount and type of building damage caused by various types of salts. 

09/11/2014

A new study has demonstrated that proactive ergonomic training can decrease worker discomfort and increase productivity. 

09/10/2014

The University of Utah has upgraded its historic Dumke Health Professions Education building to save an impressive 40% on energy costs.

09/09/2014

Hoping to build on LEED's success, PEER evaulates the performance and modernization of electric grids. 

09/08/2014

The USGBC has developed a new tool to help streamline the LEED certification process. 

09/05/2014

Researchers have developed a fluorescent lamp that emits Wi-Fi signals to allow connectivity throughout buildings.

09/04/2014

Tests show effective measures for reducing earthquake damage to computer servers. 

09/03/2014

Health costs drop by half as a result of environmental regulations.

09/02/2014

A new study challenges the idea that sparse workplaces produce happier, more productive employees.

08/29/2014

New tool from FEMA helps facility managers prepare for and mitigate the effects of nonstructural earthquake damage. 

08/28/2014

Is your building's exterior prepared for consistent snowstorms?

08/27/2014

Researchers have developed wearable, customizable technology to handle access control at busy hotels. 

08/26/2014

A new study shows that hotels which are LEED certified bring in more revenue than their non-certified competitors. 

08/25/2014

Policies designed to reduce carbon emissions have the added benefit of increasing air quality, which could pay for the reduction policies themselves. 

08/22/2014

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a luminescent solar concentrator that is as transparent as glass. 

08/21/2014

The Department of Energy has released two reports which indicate wind turbine installations and efficiency is growing while prices drop. 

08/20/2014

The NHL has partnered with the NRDC to release their first sustainability report. 

08/19/2014

A new battery has been developed that is free of toxic materials and longer lasting than its more expensive competitors.

08/14/2014

A new study shows that emergency communications that don't specify the threat could be doing more harm than good.

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