simple, cheap, scaleable solar

June 18, 2009

Raw-Solars mirror concentrates sunlight to instantly vaporize water into steam.

Raw-Solar's mirror concentrates sunlight to instantly vaporize water into steam.

This news actually broke about a year ago, but I doubt many of you saw it.

A few MIT students took a class on solar concentrators and then built one. The main advantage of this design is that it’s cheap, simple, and fairly easy to build while still being incredibly powerful. It concentrates the sun’s light roughly a thousand-fold at the focal point, enough to cause a two by four too spontaneously combust. The short descriptive video is well worth the watch.

Some of the students founded a startup, RawSolar to take the idea to the marketplace.

The current models produces steam, which can be used in a number of ways, including generating electricity. Another idea (posted as a YouTube comment, actually) is to put a thermal-electric resonator at the focal point and generate straight up electricity from the concentrated electromagnetic radiation of the sun (similar in function but different in design from a photovoltaic cell).

It’s a tough climate to be starting a company, but I really hope these guys at RawSolar make it. In a time where there’s so much competing information and technology, disagreement about the expense and scalability of clean energy with and without subsidies, this device is simple, efficient, and cheap. It represents a democracy of innovation as well. It wasn’t some big VC-funded company the built this. It was a handful of MIT kids in a class. Successes like this one make the solutions to our energy crisis seem (naively) simple. But given the generally depressing climate of energy policy and the ever-looming specter of global warming, I can do with a bit of naive optimism.

To succeed, they probably will need some VC funding to get off the ground. They’ve got some smart people on their team, so hopefully they’ll make it to production. If (When) they do start cranking these out, though, I want to get one for my roof.

One Response to “simple, cheap, scaleable solar”

  1. macromedia Says:

    Hmm. Is it true? 🙂

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