New technique improves solar absorption efficiency


1. Sustainability Problem

Energy: Solar absorbers are used to transform solar radiation into thermal energy for a variety of applications – but many of these absorbers are inefficient. The inefficiency of the technology is a barrier to its large-scale replacement of non-renewable sources of thermal energy.

2. Technology Article Summary

Novel Solar Absorber to Improve Efficiency of Concentrating Solar Power Technology
by Erica Solomon
Published 6/8/2016 on Masdar Institute News at

  • Researchers at the Masdar Institute and MIT have developed a new technique that can raise the efficiency of a solar absorber to almost ninety percent.
  • The technique involves piercing a solar-absorbing film with a pattern of very fine holes (less than 400 nm diamater).
  • The nano-porous absorber can absorb a broader range of wavelengths than traditional absorbers, and also uses less material – it has only two layers (a metallic layer over a semiconductor) with a total thickness of 170 nm.
  • The ultrathin film also exhibits low radiative losses.

3. Organizational Stakeholders

This technology is still in the research phase, but has potential to affect the following stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers of solar absorbers/collectors
  • Utilities using solar collectors to generate electricity
  • Building owners who could use thermal energy collected by solar absorbers for space and water heating

4. Deployment

The next three stages in deploying this technology could be:

  • Researchers: optimize metallic coating to reduce costs of manufacture
  • Manufacturers: manufacture modular units using the ultrathin film technology
  • Building owners and developers: phase in solar thermal panels to replace heating-oil technologies



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