IBM Solar Collector Magnifies Sun By 2000X – These Could Provide Power To The Entire Planet

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solarA team at IBM recently developed what they call a High Concentration Photo Voltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that is capable of concentrating the power of 2,000 suns, they are even claiming to be able to concentrate energy safely up to 5,000X, that’s huge.

The process of  trapping the sunlight produces water that can be used to produce filtered drinkable water, or used for other things like air conditioning etc. Scientists envision that the HCPVT system could provide sustainable energy and fresh water to communities all around the world.

“Each 1cmX1cm chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. In the HCPVT system, instead of heating a building, the 90 degree Celsius water will pass through a porous membrane distillation system where it is then vaporized and desalinated. Such a system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatts hours per day. A large installation would provide enough water for a small town.” (2)

The heat is absorbed into hundreds of tiny solar cells called photovoltaic chips. These gather the energy and are then cooled by microchannled water, which is why they are safely able to concentrate such large amounts of solar energy.

According to Greenpeace, this technology can establish itself as the third largest player in the sustainable power generation industry. A study published in 2009 predicted that solar power could supply all the world’s energy needs, with minimal space. (1) Greenpeace estimates that it would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the entire planet’s electricity needs.(1)

A common problem with modern-day solar collectors is that they can only take in a minimal amount of energy. This means that useful heat is wasted, cannot be harnessed and is thrown away. This technology eliminates that problem. Solar panels taking in too much energy run the risk of melting themselves due to mass amounts of heat. This is changing, as we continue to explore more efficient ways of energy generation, it’s becoming clear that it’s time to do away with the old, and usher in the new, clean, green technologies.

This project is being funded by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation. They are supplying a three-year $2.4 million grant to develop the technology. Prototypes have been developed and are being tested.

This is another great technology that could provide power to the entire planet for free! Good reasons as to why we cannot implement this technology are non existent. At the end of the day, it seems that big oil corporations will do whatever they can to prevent change from happening, but the power of the people is greater. All we have to do is come together, create, and cooperate.

 Below is a video of IBM research scientist Bruno Michel giving an overview of the project.

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  1. Ken

    sounds good but what happens at night or when overcast for a few days……..the lights go out

    a successful storage system has not yet been developed

    • joe

      Why must you always be a downer battery technology is coming along and new ways to store power is on the horizon chin up boy thank your lucky stars your not in some third world nation the so needs this highly surpressed idea
      Wake up please

    • David

      Ken you are very poorly informed about developments in renewable energy and battery storage. Read here:

    • Matt
    • Ken, this doesn’t have to work in isolation.

      Wind, tidal, solar and maybe geothermal energy can be used to together to help ensure a continuous supply.

      • Patrick

        I think you left out the most important one of them all, hydroelectric. Every city which has lasted the test of time is located on a river. If we’re talking about sustainability and the city/town in question is in a desert, there is already little hope. And yeah, mixing multiple energy sources makes the most sense. This certainly could be really important and seems promising.

        • Mike

          You’re argument assumes that history will repeat not taking into account the exponential advances in technology. You’re stupid. It’s no longer 500 BC where civilization depends on flowing water to flourish.

          • Ummm…yet they still do?

            Calling someone stupid while 90% of the urban centers on the world are by a river which allows 1) a constant source of water 2) allows trade is a mark of your own lack of knowledge on the matter. Saint Louis. Washington. Rome. Berlin. Paris. Bejing. Tokyo. Anchorage. Madrid. Lisbon. Salinas. San Juan. Havana. Mexico City. Moscow. The list goes on an on and will always go on an on; the cities NOT on a river/stream are very little.

    • If only we had electricity storage, I could unplug my phone from the wall and carry it with me. What a game changer that would be!

    • Storage is the area that is lagging and the reason that solar PV isn’t really ready for prime time under our current use model.

  2. Bob Posey

    This is a good thing, but it is a little misleading to sa it “produces water”. What it does, relative to water, is heat the required cooling water to 90 degrees celsius, just a liitle short of boiling. That’s a good start if you have a supply of salt water or otherwise non-potable water that you want to purify, but not the same as producing water. It helps you produce potable water, given a suppl of non-potable water.

    • Yep – requires water to work. So locations in the middle of no-where, where it’s too expensive to provide facilities, and that free electricity would be ideal – they still can’t deploy this technology.

  3. Mike duoba

    “Good reasons as to why we cannot implement this technology are non existent”
    Except for the very biggest reasons like costs and risks. You think investors wouldn’t run over a spotted owl to get in on a moneymaking energy project?

  4. Dave m

    I live In Bulgaria and the street dogs walk along the road and don’t get knocked down ,In the uk if I let my dog off the lead it wouldn’t understand the difference between the pavement and the road ,Its strange how they adapt without any schooling ,so I think the birds will too and if they don’t somebody should open a Kentucky fried chicken restaurant there

    • Fred Willard

      You didn’t watch the video did you? The energy is focused to a chip at the focal point of the dish, or rather the sunlight is directed at a surface that is only a couple of feet in front of the dish.

    • Let’s hope not. But it pales in comparison to the damage caused by coastal oil spills, drilling, fracking etc. etc.

  5. Seems to be an amazing improvement over the efficiency of present day solar cells but like the ‘more efficient’ light bulbs, I will have to see a price tag before purchasing….While many break-througs in medicine, quantum computing, space exploration, and anti-gravity devices are nice to read about, I am still nursing my yearly ‘common’ cold, cursing windows xp, unable to levitate without arthritic pain when I try to lift myself against the gravity holding me to this chair..finances keep me shackled to a gas-guzzling dinosaur..and though I fully realize that there are many habitable planets in the universe, I am unable to afford a trip to the bahamas to escape the two feet of snow outside my door….yadda, yadda, yadda..on the bright side, I am well stocked with supplies and the electric is still on even though the sun went down a few hours ago.. 😉 …peace!

  6. JR

    For everyone with storage concerns that’s where Ambri comes in. They’re working on molten metal salt batteries that are designed to handle grid level energy storage to have a buffer in case the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining. Check them out here:

  7. Dr.SS

    It looks like it gives off a good amount of shade for those desert dwellers too. I’m all for this reflector.

  8. Scottar

    There’s a big gap between could and can. Over ten years ago ‘experts’ where claiming wind would have penetration of 40% or more. Last time I looked wind is barely at 3% and in Europe then still haven’t figured out a way to compensate for the intermittent and chaotic power swings.

    I don’t believe in mandating power stuff that has not proven it’s self sufficiency or alleged performance. There’s a big difference in installed capacity and usable capacity, and dispersable power vs sometimes power. And global warming is no longer the issue, the raw data just doesn’t support the claim.

    • Global warming or not…. toxic from burning fossil fuels has to stop, no matter what. we have to evolve so our planet will live to see thousand years.. and by then, our grand grand grand grand children will also enjoy what we´ve left behind. lets make it a world worth live in. 😉

    • Of course global warming is still the issue. Until something happens to reverse global warming, global warming will be the issue. I hope this works. If it doesn’t, it must be refined and improved until it does. Oil is unsustainable.

    • wial

      The raw data? How on Earth would you know? How would you possibly know better than the world’s best climate scientists? Do you have the statistics chops to accurately analyze the massive volumes of raw data available without succumbing to cherry-picking? Or did you get your opinion from college dropouts, because most right wing pundits (America’s Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck for instance) are college dropouts.

      I’m glad you like to think you’re thinking for yourself even if you’re not. Skepticism is a grand tradition that should not be besmirched, but I’m sure it can tolerate a bit of misapplication.

      As for your “facts”, “Last time I looked” gets you off the hook I suppose but as of 2012 Europe was getting 7% of its power from wind — more than double the rate you remember, so that means it’s increasing fast, (albeit far less than the estimate you claim someone gave 10 years ago but who cares about that?) Thanks for providing a data point in favor of the rapid expansion of wind power. You might want to revisit the current facts as it’s clearly been a few years.

      As for means of energy storage, there are plenty of completely viable solutions to that problem. Consider water for a moment. It can be pumped uphill and run back down at night. But that’s just one of many as another commenter points out.

      My own sense of the market is solar is going to eclipse everything else quite soon, because it’s becoming the cheapest form of power in a number of niches, and that means economies of scale are finally going to kick in, let alone the fact many solar technologies advance in efficiency at rates comparable to Moore’s Law.

      Also, watch the typos. They further diminish the strength of your argument. I know they’re stock in trade for right wing commenters, but you don’t want that stock to be laughing stock.

  9. That is excellent news!

  10. lawrence drew

    Very positive breakthrough

  11. Carl

    This technology is not new, see In development currently is a small scale parabolic/turbine to produce electricity and hot water for anyone and anywhere on the planet.

  12. And now this is out of the news, like all new energy advances. Anything actually happening with this?

  13. Really? The power of 2000 suns? What a nonsensical thing to say. It’s an impressive piece of engineering, but it is in no what what this article says it is.

    • Bob Blacksmith

      It doesn’t mean the suns power. It means the suns rays that are being absorbed by the panel-thinga-mabobbers

    • Dr.SS

      2000 mirrors would fit that sun power estimation. What is so hard to accept about that?

  14. well lets get the dam thing operating then!!!

  15. chris fitzhugh

    How much does it cost to produce these things.

    • wow, really? who cares about the costs? is it lack of food, water or air cheaper?

    • Otowner

      Who cares? If we don’t act fast we’ll be out of food, consumable water and breathable air.

  16. Faheem

    During my school age, we kids use to burn papers by magnifying sun rays through glass, having now been many years in the electrical power business and realizing that day by day demand of electrical power is growing around the glob, the idea of magnifying sun rays re-emerged in my mind just recently, IBM’s invention will work for the entire world, but need to design in a way that is not very expensive system on which rich nations make money from it and the poor are left behind looking around in dark with candles & hand fans, SUN belongs to every human, let us share it equally

  17. You should check for Solar Keymark certificate and parameters (like efficiency or power output) while trying to find any solar thermal collector (flat-plate or evacuated tube). There is also available search engine for collectors based on selected parameters taken from Solar Keymark certficates:


    So have to pump water to the Sahara and then build an electrical network with the capacity to feed the power needs of the Earth to run from the Sahara. Then clean and maintain solar reflectors and what to do with the salt from the desalination. Other than that sounds like a good idea. Would you need to mine anything to get this done?

    • Tim

      I think they are using “2% of the sahara desert” as an example of how much space is needed to supply the worlds power needs.

  19. Gooch

    Whats the hold up, then?

  20. David

    Mr. Walia, I am sure you have good intentions and desire to promote renewable energy in general. But if you intend to write about this subject you would do yourself and your readers a huge service if you take some time to educate yourself on the basics of solar electric generation and solar heated water. Your article has more than a few errors and does not really represent a viable technology that is ready for deployment.

  21. Gilbert

    This is a great alternative to what we are using today and with more support and work. We may survive a little longer and healthier on this planet. Negative thinking is not supportive and slows the process that is why we are living in a world that is falling apart. Everybody likes to be right but can’t seem to do the right thing!


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