Jacky Tang

writer,

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Is there a more efficient way to focus sunlight besides tracking the sun across the sky?

Most of the solar farms and their large arrays of cells require robotic techology to track the sunlight across the sky in order to obtain the greatest amount of conversion. That seems overly complicated and it seems to be the main obstacle to creating individualized solar energy systems for individual homes. Imagine how expensive it would be to have a solar tracking system for each house. It's not practical.

What I want to know is if there is another way to focus sunlight uniformly from all directions with a relatively high level of efficacy without having to track the sun. A type of omnidirectional focusing apparatus.

I'm not much of a physicist or engineer so it would be difficult for me to conceive but I was thinking something along the lines of a dome or sphere made of individual cells that would focus the majority of sunlight into the center. I'm sure engineers have used the dish structure rather than a dome for a reason, but there has to be some way to achieve this isn't there?

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    Mar 17 2011: dome or sphere ?

    Actually, parabolic dish is optimal for any planet with one sun. To see that, invert the direction: imagine light source at the focus and see where the light goes. For parabolic mirror they go in one direction. It is possible to make them to go in many directions (easiest by moving it out of focus) but that would only mean that (inverting again) it would collect light from many directions. Perhaps that's what you want, but collecting light from directions where there is no source is a waste.
    To track the sun is not that expensive. Best way to boost performance is to place colectors in orbit, above the atmosphere. It is called SPS.
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      Mar 17 2011: Can you explain the SPS further? That seems even more expensive though...

      All I was wondering was if there was a possible alternative to the stationary rooftop solar panels that wouldn't be as complex as a solar tracking device. Something that can condense/refract maximal amount of sunlight while being stationary.
  • Mar 17 2011: Maybe intelligent solar cells could be made, acting like plants. The structure of the cell would react to sunlight and adjust its shape (and thus direction) according to the intensity of solar radiation. I know such things are done in other fields.
  • Mar 15 2011: nukes and coal all the way anyway!
  • Mar 15 2011: terrain mapping
    centrifugation of said dish for better heat conversion
    GPS?