These would weigh and cost less than do mirror-type solar concentrators.
Solar-thermal-radiation concentrators in the form of transmissive diffractive optical elements (DOEs) have been proposed as alternatives to mirror- type solar concentrators now in use. In comparison with functionally equivalent mirror-type solar concentrators, the transmissive, diffractive solar concentrators would weigh and cost less, and would be subject to relaxed mechanical tolerances.
A DOE concentrator would be made from a thin, flat disk or membrane of a transmissive material having a suitable index of refraction. By virtue of its thinness, the DOE concentrator would have an areal mass density significantly less than that of a functionally equivalent conventional mirror.
The design process of optimizing the concentration ratio of a proposed DOE solar concentrator includes computing convolutions of the optical bandwidth of the Sun with the optical transmission of the diffractive medium. Because, as in the cases of other non-imaging, light-concentrating optics, image quality is not a design requirement, the process also includes trading image quality against concentration ratio.
A baseline design for one example calls for an aperture diameter of 1 m. This baseline design would be scalable to a diameter as large as 10 m, or to a smaller diameter for a laboratory test article. Initial calculations have indicated that the characteristics of the test article would be readily scalable to a full-size unit.
This work was done by Richard Baron, Philip Moynihan, and Douglas Price of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, NASA Management Office–JPL. Refer to NPO-43801.
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