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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Giant Leap Technologies Receive Grant to Develop 3D Printed Microfluidic Solar Power Collectors

by • July 31, 2016 • No Comments

gltAlternative energy is a controversial topic, and it’s just one piece of the dimensionsabler climate alter debate that is been raging for years. As the scientific evidence for climate alter becomes additional and additional undeniable, yet, the createment of alternative energy innovation is becoming additional urgent, and great strides have been turn it intod lately. 3D printing has been playing a big role in the innovation of green innovation, that include wind energy and solar power, and it looks as yet it can go on to do so, if a new Department of Energy grant is any indication.

hp_sunshot_logoThe United States Department of Energy newly allocated $11 million in funding for the research and createment of high end solar power technologies. The grant is part of the SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national project aimed at building solar energy as low-priced as traditional energy sources by the end of the decade. Six of the 16 projects receiving funding relate to concentrated solar power (CSP), an energy-harnessing technique that involves the use of thousands of mirrors or lenses to gather dimensionsable amounts of solar energy and directs it to a central location, where it is transformed into heat and utilized to power steam turbines or engines, that in turn turn it into a dimensionsable amount of electricity.


The current model: a solar energy plant in Ivanpah, California. [Image: Department of Energy]

It’s an effective technique, but there are yet several logistical issues. CSP plants operate by mounting thousands of heliostats (the sun-gathering mirrors) onto tracking devices that rotate like sunflowers to follow the sun’s course across the sky, thus optimizing the amount of sunlight gathered. These solar power collectors, unfortunately, are giant heavy things that take up a lot of space, material and money, so the Energy Department has allocated $2.2 million to a partnership between Lawrence Liveradditional National Laboratory and Giant Leap Technologies to make CSP additional efficient. (Note that GLT notes a $2.2 million, two-year cooperative award, while LLNL notes a $1.75 million allocation.)

The LLNL/GLP project aims to replace the huge steel and concrete sun trackers with less expensive, lightweight and more compact devices via Giant Leap Technologies’ patent-pending Digital Glass innovation, that utilizes microfluidics to direct fluids through small channels within solid panels for a refractive effect, “steering” sunlight to a solar receiver. The project may replace the several-ton sun tracker stations with thin, transparent panels requiring just a fraction of the materials needed to make the current models. The surface area required to install the Digital Glass modules may in addition be of five to ten times more compact than that required for current solar power plants for the same yearly energy production, according to GLT.

“At Giant Leap Technologies we believe that the following primary advance in solar energy lies in liberating nature’s secrets for the electronic control of sunlight,” said Leo DiDomenico, Giant Leap Technologies CEO and former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Engineer. “It can provide awe-inspiring and previously unimagined ways to deploy affordable solar power installations and has the future to set new directions for both the solar thermal and photovoltaic industries for decades to come.”

Logo_LLNLMaking the Digital Glass modules actually additional efficient is the fact that GLT and LLNL plan to make them with new microfluidic 3D printing techniques. The 3D printing of microfluidics is a new and expanding createment, with the initially commercial microfluidic 3D printing device being released just a few months ago. The team plans to additional create the innovation with new techniques that can allow the printing of micron-level opto-microfluidic structures to be scaled up and printed at square meter dimensions.


Microfluidic solar panels. [Image: GLT]

“This is an great example of a partnership between industry and the national laboratories to use cutting-edge additive making techniques to advance new energy innovation,” said Jeff Roberts, LLNL’s deputy director for Energy and Climate Security.

Giant Leap Technologies has may already generated a dimensionsable-scale, early-stage prototype of the Microfluidic Light Steering (MLS) collector. The funding of the Department of Energy can allow GLT and LLNL to fine-tune the create and reduce the dimensions of the device to of the thickness of a car windshield. To learn additional, you can check out a research paper of Giant Leap Technologies entitled “Towards doubling solar harvests via wide-angle, broad-band microfluidic beam steering arrays,” newly published in Optics Express.

Discuss this topic additional in the LLNL Receives Grant for Solar 3D forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: LLNL, GLT / Images: GLT]