Concentrated solar power (CSP) is set to become much more efficient – a team of researchers at UC San Diego just developed a new nanomaterial that could enable CSP plants to absorb and convert more than 90 percent of captured sunlight. It’s a significant boost that’s being hailed as a breakthrough for solar power.
Current CSP plants are made up of mirrors that focus sunlight on a tower painted with a black material that maximizes sunlight capture, but degrades quickly and requires maintenance every year. Through the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, UCSD researchers have developed a new light-absorbing material that’s made up of special particles ranging in size from 10 nanometers to 10 micrometers. The new material can be spray painted onto surfaces, forming a ‘multiscale’ surface that can withstand temperatures up to 1,292 degrees F and can last for years, even when exposed to air and humidity. Perhaps most importantly, this new material can absorb about 90 to 95 percent of light with very little heat loss.
CSP plants currently produce about 3.5 gigawatts of electricity worldwide, but according to researchers that number could go up to as much as 20 GW in the not too distant future, thanks to this new technology. The new material will also help cut costs and maintenance on CSPs, making it a truly revolutionary new material for solar energy gathering.