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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.

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10/21/2014

U.S. photovoltaic costs continue to decline.

10/20/2014

The EPA looks to help improve energy and air quality during educational facility renovations. 

10/17/2014

Agency says current regulations "don't protect worker health".

10/16/2014

Scientists have developed LED bulbs free of rare earth metals.

10/15/2014

Survey shows a decrease in employees coming to work sick.

10/14/2014

New efficiency ratings available for apartment units

10/10/2014

New code to increase commercial building efficiency.

10/09/2014

Take charge of your electricity bill with these quick tips.

10/08/2014

Illumination improvements take the top award for physics

10/07/2014

Study shows equipment improvements could boost efficiency. 

10/06/2014

New device integrates batteries into solar cell design.

10/03/2014

The switch to green products comes to healthcare facilities.

10/01/2014

Photovoltaic installations serve nearly 2.7 million students

09/30/2014

Incidence of fires and property loss down from 2012

09/29/2014

Academic achievement tied to responsible reporting habits

09/26/2014

Survey shows people more careful, less satisfied in public washrooms.

09/25/2014

A new study shows that switching natural gas for coal will not significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emissions being produced. 

09/24/2014

A new study shows the carbon emission reduction policies individual states have adopted are yielding results.

09/23/2014

A recent survey of industry professionals indicates that investment in energy efficiency projects will increase over the next year.

09/22/2014

Fort Carson in Colorado is well on its way to reaching the goal of net-zero energy by 2020. 

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