US20100116336A1 - Light Collection and Concentration System - Google Patents

Light Collection and Concentration System Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100116336A1
US20100116336A1 US12/389,466 US38946609A US2010116336A1 US 20100116336 A1 US20100116336 A1 US 20100116336A1 US 38946609 A US38946609 A US 38946609A US 2010116336 A1 US2010116336 A1 US 2010116336A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
light
transport structure
system
structure
concentrator
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Abandoned
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US12/389,466
Inventor
Juan Carlos Martinez Anton
Oscar Pereles Ligero
Daniel Vazquez Molini
Eusebio Bernabeu Martinez
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Abengoa Solar New Technologies SA
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Abengoa Solar New Technologies SA
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Priority to ESP200803237 priority Critical
Priority to ES200803237A priority patent/ES2364665B1/en
Application filed by Abengoa Solar New Technologies SA filed Critical Abengoa Solar New Technologies SA
Publication of US20100116336A1 publication Critical patent/US20100116336A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B6/00Light guides
    • G02B6/0001Light guides specially adapted for lighting devices or systems
    • G02B6/0011Light guides specially adapted for lighting devices or systems the light guides being planar or of plate-like form
    • G02B6/0033Means for improving the coupling-out of light from the light guide
    • G02B6/0035Means for improving the coupling-out of light from the light guide provided on the surface of the light guide or in the bulk of it
    • G02B6/0038Linear indentations or grooves, e.g. arc-shaped grooves or meandering grooves, extending over the full length or width of the light guide
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • F24S23/12Light guides
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • F24S23/30Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors with lenses
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • F24S23/30Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors with lenses
    • F24S23/31Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors with lenses having discontinuous faces, e.g. Fresnel lenses
    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B3/00Simple or compound lenses
    • G02B3/0006Arrays
    • G02B3/0037Arrays characterized by the distribution or form of lenses
    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B3/00Simple or compound lenses
    • G02B3/02Simple or compound lenses with non-spherical faces
    • G02B3/08Simple or compound lenses with non-spherical faces with discontinuous faces, e.g. Fresnel lens
    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B6/00Light guides
    • G02B6/0001Light guides specially adapted for lighting devices or systems
    • G02B6/0011Light guides specially adapted for lighting devices or systems the light guides being planar or of plate-like form
    • G02B6/0033Means for improving the coupling-out of light from the light guide
    • G02B6/0035Means for improving the coupling-out of light from the light guide provided on the surface of the light guide or in the bulk of it
    • G02B6/0045Means for improving the coupling-out of light from the light guide provided on the surface of the light guide or in the bulk of it by shaping at least a portion of the light guide
    • G02B6/0046Tapered light guide, e.g. wedge-shaped light guide
    • G02B6/0048Tapered light guide, e.g. wedge-shaped light guide with stepwise taper
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L31/00Semiconductor devices sensitive to infra-red radiation, light, electromagnetic radiation of shorter wavelength or corpuscular radiation and adapted either for the conversion of the energy of such radiation into electrical energy or for the control of electrical energy by such radiation; Processes or apparatus peculiar to the manufacture or treatment thereof or of parts thereof; Details thereof
    • H01L31/04Semiconductor devices sensitive to infra-red radiation, light, electromagnetic radiation of shorter wavelength or corpuscular radiation and adapted either for the conversion of the energy of such radiation into electrical energy or for the control of electrical energy by such radiation; Processes or apparatus peculiar to the manufacture or treatment thereof or of parts thereof; Details thereof adapted as photovoltaic [PV] conversion devices
    • H01L31/054Optical elements directly associated or integrated with the PV cell, e.g. light-reflecting means or light-concentrating means
    • H01L31/0543Optical elements directly associated or integrated with the PV cell, e.g. light-reflecting means or light-concentrating means comprising light concentrating means of the refractive type, e.g. lenses
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L31/00Semiconductor devices sensitive to infra-red radiation, light, electromagnetic radiation of shorter wavelength or corpuscular radiation and adapted either for the conversion of the energy of such radiation into electrical energy or for the control of electrical energy by such radiation; Processes or apparatus peculiar to the manufacture or treatment thereof or of parts thereof; Details thereof
    • H01L31/04Semiconductor devices sensitive to infra-red radiation, light, electromagnetic radiation of shorter wavelength or corpuscular radiation and adapted either for the conversion of the energy of such radiation into electrical energy or for the control of electrical energy by such radiation; Processes or apparatus peculiar to the manufacture or treatment thereof or of parts thereof; Details thereof adapted as photovoltaic [PV] conversion devices
    • H01L31/054Optical elements directly associated or integrated with the PV cell, e.g. light-reflecting means or light-concentrating means
    • H01L31/0547Optical elements directly associated or integrated with the PV cell, e.g. light-reflecting means or light-concentrating means comprising light concentrating means of the reflecting type, e.g. parabolic mirrors, concentrators using total internal reflection
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • F24S23/10Prisms
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F24HEATING; RANGES; VENTILATING
    • F24SSOLAR HEAT COLLECTORS; SOLAR HEAT SYSTEMS
    • F24S23/00Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors
    • F24S23/70Arrangements for concentrating solar-rays for solar heat collectors with reflectors
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS [GHG] EMISSIONS, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E10/00Energy generation through renewable energy sources
    • Y02E10/40Solar thermal energy
    • Y02E10/44Heat exchange systems
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS [GHG] EMISSIONS, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E10/00Energy generation through renewable energy sources
    • Y02E10/50Photovoltaic [PV] energy
    • Y02E10/52PV systems with concentrators

Abstract

A light collection and concentration system includes a primary light concentrator, a light transport structure, and a light directing structure optically associated with the primary light concentrator. The system may include an optional secondary light concentrator. Each unit-system includes a plurality of the primary light concentrators and a respective plurality of the light directing structures, and only a single light transport structure. A photo-voltaic (PV) cell may advantageously be associated with each unit-system. Solar radiation is focused by the primary concentrators onto respective light directing structures incorporated in a low aspect ratio, sheet-type waveguide light transport structure. Each respective light directing structure intercepts the focused light and deflects it transversely to travel along the length of the light transport structure primarily via total internal reflection (TIR) towards an exit-end of the light transport structure, where it can be input to the PV cell. The optional secondary light concentrator may further concentrate the light out-coupled from the transport structure into the PV cell.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATION DATA
  • The instant application claims priority to Spanish priority application No. P200803237 filed in the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office on Nov. 12, 2008.
  • BACKGROUND
  • 1. Field of the Invention
  • Embodiments of the invention generally pertain to a light collection and concentration system. More particularly, embodiments on the invention are directed to a solar radiation collection and concentration system and components thereof; methods for light collection, transport, and concentration; and applications of said solar radiation collection and concentration system and components thereof; and, most particularly to a solar energy-concentrated photo-voltaic (CPV) system.
  • 2. Description of Related Art
  • Numerous solar energy systems and components that make up these systems have been proposed and developed over the 20th century to present. Despite this longstanding effort and the enormous resources devoted to it, solar energy systems available today are not competitive in terms of cost and efficiency with alternative forms of energy production for commercial and residential settings.
  • FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view that schematically illustrates a generic conventional solar photovoltaic system. Solar radiation 1 is incident on a light collector 2, e.g., a lens. The lens concentrates (focuses) the collected light into an active secondary component 31 that can transport the collected energy to a photovoltaic (PV) cell 8. As shown in FIG. 1, the system comprises a linear array of three units, each containing a lens, a secondary component, and a PV cell.
  • A well known design goal for solar collection systems is unit size reduction with increased efficiency. That is, solar energy systems may benefit commercially if they are relatively thin, compact, easily deployable, accessible for servicing, and cost efficient. As seen in FIG. 1, there is a one-to-one correspondence between each light collection lens and PV cell.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates in a manner similar to that of FIG. 1 a more compact design for the system. Each collection lens 2 in FIG. 1 has been replaced by two smaller diameter collection lenses 2 1 and 2 2, which together collect the same light flux as the single larger lens 2 in FIG. 1. Although the system deployed in FIG. 2 is thinner than the FIG. 1 system, the size reduction is at a cost of twice the number of active components 31 1, 31 2 and PV cells 8 1, 8 2. Similarly, if lens component 2 were split into four smaller lenses, the number of active components and PV cells would increase by a factor of four, and so on. The resulting increase in number of components raises both the system cost and potential system failure rate.
  • In view of these and other known challenges in the solar energy art, the inventors have recognized the benefits and advantages of solar energy systems and associated components that are thinner, more compact, more efficient, more reliable, less costly, and otherwise improved over the current state of the art.
  • SUMMARY
  • An embodiment of the invention is directed to a light collection and concentration system. The system includes a primary light concentrator; a single light transport structure; and, a light directing structure. The system may advantageously include a secondary light concentrator. The system may further include a PV cell associated with each unit-system that includes a plurality of the primary light concentrators and a respective plurality of the light directing structures, a single light transport structure and, optionally, a secondary light concentrator.
  • Illustratively, solar radiation is focused at normal incidence onto the large area surface of a thin, sheet-type waveguide transport structure. A light directing structure intercepts the focused light at or in the transport structure and deflects it transversely to travel along the planar length of the transport structure. A secondary light concentrator may be provided to concentrate the light within the waveguide and out-couple the light at an exit-end of the waveguide, advantageously into a PV cell.
  • According to non-limiting, alternative aspects, the primary light concentrator may be any of a variety of known elements that can collect incident solar radiation and concentrate this incident radiation into a smaller area. Refractive elements (e.g., lenses), reflective elements (e.g., mirrors), and diffractive elements (e.g., holograms) are non-limiting examples of primary light concentrators that may be used. According to various non-limiting aspects, a single primary light concentrator may take the form of a conventional focusing lens, a Fresnel lens, a straight cylindrical lens, a curved cylindrical lens (e.g., a full annulus or arc segment thereof), a parabolic mirror (or segment thereof), and others known in the art. As such, unit-systems may comprise, but are not limited to, primary light concentrator sections in the forms of a spaced, non-overlapping lens array (e.g., square, hexagonal. Triangular, other array shapes), a straight, cylindrical lenticular-type concentrator sheet, and a circular (or arc segment thereof)-annular, cylindrical lenticular-type concentrator sheet.
  • The single light transport structure associated with a unit-system is in the form of a thin sheet waveguide; i.e., having a thickness, T, much less than the general length, L, of the structure; thus having a low aspect ratio defined by T/L. The structure will be bounded by upper (top) and lower (bottom) surfaces that define the boundary between a higher index of refraction within the structure and a lower index of refraction outside of the structure so as to facilitate light propagation along the length of the interior of the structure via total internal reflection (TIR) as known in the art. The structure will have an end (hereinafter, exit-end) wherefrom the light propagates out of the transport structure. According to various non-limiting aspects, the interior of the structure may comprise solid, liquid, or gaseous material suitable to propagate light therein by TIR with or without diffuse and/or specular reflection.
  • The aforementioned light directing structure provides a means by which concentrated light from the primary light concentrator is input to and/or directed in a desired propagation direction in the light transport structure towards the exit-end of the transport structure. Thus the light directing structure can suitably function to capture the focal spot, for example, from the primary light concentrator that is for the most part normally incident on the top or bottom surface of the transport structure and redirect it, illustratively, at 90 degrees, in order for it to propagate along the length of the transport structure towards the exit-end thereof. In a non-limiting aspect, the light directing structure may be a light reflecting surface laterally cut into the top or bottom surface of the transport structure that reflects input light via TIR, specular reflection, diffuse reflection, diffraction, multiple beam interference, and other known optical processes for changing the direction of a propagating light beam. In each single transport structure, multiple light directing structures will be respectively associated with multiple primary light concentrators of a unit-system. Thus each light directing structure may be a finite or a continuous structure depending upon the configuration and geometry of each of the respective primary light concentrator(s). According to non-limiting aspects, the top and/or bottom surfaces of the transport structure that contains the light directing structures as integral surface portions thereof may have a flat, a staircase, or an echelon-shaped top or bottom surface that may be planar or curved. According to alternative aspects, the light directing structures may be disposed in the interior of the transport structure in the form of prisms, gratings, quantum dots, photonic crystals, and other structures that would be able to provide the required function of the light directing structures with or without primary focusing elements.
  • The optional secondary light concentrator serves to collect the light propagating in the low-aspect-ratio transport structure and further concentrate it for outcoupling through the exit-end of the transport structure and, advantageously, into a PV cell disposed to directly receive the outcoupled light. According to a non-limiting aspect, a light concentrating optical component may be operatively coupled to (e.g., molded to, cemented to, free-space-aligned to, etc.) the exit-end of the transport structure to secondarily concentrate and out-couple the light into a PV cell. The optical component may be made of the same or a different material than the transport structure suitable to perform its intended function. Alternatively, the exit-end itself of the transport structure may be shaped (e.g., parabolically-tapered; straight-tapered; trapezoidally-tapered; or, otherwise appropriately shaped) to integrally form the secondary concentrator in the exit-end of the transport structure. Such shapes will support TIR and/or specular and/or diffuse reflection of the light propagating in the transport structure.
  • Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the detailed description which follows, and in part will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art from that description or recognized by practicing the invention as described herein, including the claims as well as the appended drawings.
  • It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are merely exemplary of the invention, and are intended to provide an overview or framework for understanding the nature and character of the invention as it is claimed. The accompanying drawings are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification. The drawings illustrate various embodiments of the invention and together with the description serve to explain the principles and operation of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a cross sectional schematic view of a generic prior art solar energy system;
  • FIG. 2 is a cross sectional schematic view of a more compact generic prior art solar energy system similar to that illustrated in FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 3 is a cross sectional schematic view of a light collection and concentration system according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention;
  • FIG. 4 is a cross sectional schematic view of a more compact light collection and concentration system similar to that illustrated in FIG. 3 according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention;
  • FIGS. 5A-5E show various illustrative aspects of primary light concentrator configurations according to alternative illustrative aspects of the invention;
  • FIGS. 6A, 6B show different views of an annular-circular primary light concentrator component of the system according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 7 shows a schematic cross sectional view of a primary light concentrator component according to an exemplary aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 8 shows a schematic cross sectional view of a reflective-type system according to an exemplary aspect of the invention;
  • FIGS. 9A, 9B show a schematic cross sectional view of a primary light concentrator unit in the form of a catadioptric system according to an exemplary aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 10 shows a schematic perspective view of a generic light transport structure for illustration purposes;
  • FIG. 11 schematically shows in cross section a light transport structure incorporating two light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 12 schematically shows in cross section an alternative light transport structure and integrated light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 13 schematically shows in cross section an alternative light transport structure and integrated light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 14 schematically shows in cross section an alternative light transport structure and integrated light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 15 is a schematic top plan view of a light transport structure with discrete light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 16 is a schematic top plan view of a light transport structure with continuous light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention;
  • FIG. 17 is a schematic top plan view of a light transport structure with continuous light directing structures according to an illustrative aspect of the invention; and
  • FIGS. 18A, 18B show perspective views of alternative, shaped, secondary light concentrators in the form of a parabolic concentrator and a straight-trapezoidal concentrator, respectively, according to non-limiting, illustrative embodiments of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
  • FIG. 3 schematically shows a cross sectional portion of a light collection and concentration unit-system 100-1 according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention that provides a general overview of the system components, system configuration, and system operation. As illustrated, solar radiation (light) 301 is incident upon primary light concentrators 302 n. Through refraction, reflection, or diffraction as determined by the nature of the primary light concentrators, the light 301 is concentrated at respective regions 305 n, shown as focal spots in a focal plane. Respective light directing structures 306 n intercept the focal spots of light and provide a means for injecting the light into a unit-system's single transport structure 350 and directing it to propagate within the transport structure in the direction of arrows 313. As shown by the increasing boldness of the arrows 313 in the propagation direction, the light intensity propagating towards the right in FIG. 3 increases cumulatively due to the injected light from the plurality of primary light concentrators and respective light directing structures. The transport structure 350 has an exit-end designated at 309 where the propagating light would exit the transport structure. An optional secondary light concentrator 310 is shown directly coupled to the exit-end of the transport structure and serves to further concentrate the light outcoupled from the transport structure through an exit-end of the secondary concentrator, which has a reduced surface area, advantageously sized to match the entrance aperture of a photo-voltaic (PV) cell. A PV cell 380 is shown disposed at the exit-end of the secondary concentrator to directly receive the further concentrated, out-coupled light.
  • FIG. 4 schematically shows a cross sectional portion of a light collection and concentration unit-system 100-2 according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention that is similar to that of 100-1 in FIG. 1, except that the number and size of the primary light concentrators 402 n have increased and decreased, respectively, and the number of light directing structures 406 n has increased to match that of each respective primary concentrator, resulting in a more compact (at least thinner) system than that shown in FIG. 3. Note, again, that each unit-system has only a single, respective light transport structure and a single PV cell.
  • What follows is a descriptions of the various components and component systems suitable for use in the embodied invention according to non-limiting aspects of the invention.
  • Primary Light Concentrator
  • The primary light concentrator has two major functions: to collect incident solar radiation; and, to concentrate the incident radiation into a desired spot size at a desired concentration location coincident with a respective light directing structure. Thus the primary light concentrator will be characterized by, among other things, a focusing power parameter. Hereinafter, the concentrated light spot will be referred to as the focus spot and the concentration location will be referred to as the focal plane, for each primary light concentrator, although this terminology is not intended to limit the light concentration to the optical focus per se of a primary light concentrator.
  • According to an embodiment, the primary light concentrator is a refractive component; i.e., a lens of various types well known in the art. Based on system design parameters, the refractive component can be provided in a suitable material having desired physical and optical characteristics including, but not limited to, index of refraction, size, shape, curvature, conic constant, orientation, geometry, and so on.
  • It will be further appreciated that a light collection and concentration unit-system according to various non-limiting aspects of the invention will comprise a plurality of primary light concentrators arranged discretely in, e.g., a non-overlapping array, as a group of interconnected individual lenses arranged, e.g., in a non-overlapping array of groups, as an annular or other sequential interconnection of lenses, and other configurations.
  • According to an illustrative aspect, the primary light concentrator 502 is a rectangular shaped cylindrical lens, as shown for illustration as two connected end-to-end and side-by-side lenses, respectively, in FIGS. 5A, 5B. Each lens may, for example, have a clear aperture of 1 mm×3 mm and an aspheric surface contour. A primary light concentrator unit according to this illustrative aspect would have straight-lined foci as opposed, for example, to a circular or arc-shaped focal spot. FIGS. 5C, 5D, 5E illustrate alternate primary light concentrator lens shapes and array shapes using square lenses, triangular lenses, and hexagonal lenses, respectively. It will be appreciated that a primary light concentrator unit need not be limited to these lens or array shapes as discussed below.
  • In another illustrative aspect, each primary light concentrator 602 n is a circular cylindrical lens or arc section thereof, as illustrated in FIGS. 6A, 6B. As shown, a plurality of lenses 602 n are interconnected in an annular (radial) manner. Each lens 602 has a diameter, d, that may or may not be constant. As further illustrated in FIG. 6A, each lens 602 has a cross sectional profile extending over a full arc of 180 degrees. Also, as shown, all of the lenses 602 n have the same f/#. However, the profile and/or f/# may vary among the lenses, as described below in conjunction with FIG. 7. According to the illustrative system embodiment of FIG. 6, the collected input light will ultimately be propagated in an inward radial direction (bold arrow L) to a PV cell 680 located at the radial origin of each unit system. Thus the unit shape may be a geometrical arc from a few degrees, shown in the form of a pie-shaped slice in FIG. 6B, potentially up to a full 360 degrees depending upon the entrance aperture of the PV cell associated with each unit-system.
  • FIG. 7 shows in cross sectional profile a non-limiting, illustrative aspect of a light collection and concentration system including a plurality of primary light collectors 702 n and a light transport structure 720 of index n2 with integrally incorporated light directing structures 710. Each of the lenses 702 n has a curved saw tooth cross sectional profile having a variable radial extent R from zero degrees (i.e., R horizontal) to 90 degrees (R vertical) or less. Although the f/#s remain equal in this example, the clear apertures, D, of the lenses increase monotonically from the largest annulus (right end of diagram) to the smallest annulus (left end of diagram). The light directing structures 710 are formed in the bottom surface 715 of the light transport structure 720, forming a stepped-surface as shown. The top surface 716 of the light transport structure is flat and represents the high/low index boundary (n1≦n2) to support TIR within the transport structure. In a prototype design, the lens' clear apertures ranged from about 0.5 mm to about 7 mm. The size of the light directing structures was optimized to be between 0.05 mm×0.05 mm to 1 mm×1 mm. The angle of the light directing structures was optimized to be between 41° to 45°. The cone angle of light from the primary concentrators incident on the light directing structures was optimized to be between 20° to 23°. Light is propagated within the light transport structure in the direction L.
  • According to another embodiment, the primary light concentrator is a reflective component; i.e., a mirror of various types well known in the art. A cross sectional view of an illustrative reflective-type system is shown in FIG. 8 where reference numeral 802 represents a reflective primary light concentrator. Incident sunlight 1 is collected by the primary concentrator and is focused onto a light directing structure 810 in a transport structure 820. The concentrated light is totally internally reflected, or otherwise reflected, in the direction of arrows L towards the center of the unit where a PV cell is located. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the geometries of reflective primary light concentrator units may be similar to those of the refractive type described above, in accordance with the intended functions of the primary light concentrators.
  • According to an alternative aspect, the primary light concentrator unit may comprise a catadioptric system as grossly illustrated in FIGS. 9A, 9B. Solar radiation 1 is incident on a refractive component 932 and thereafter propagates in a semi-concentrated state to a reflective component 934 before being focused onto a respective light directing structure in transport structure 920.
  • Light Directing Structure and Light Transport Structure
  • According to an embodiment of the invention, the light directing structure and light transport structure form an integral component. As discussed above, the function of the light directing structure is to receive the focal spot (which is propagating in one direction) from the primary light concentrator and direct that light into the transport structure so that it may propagate within the transport structure in a direction generally transverse to that of the incident light direction.
  • A generic, sheet-type light transport structure 1050 according to the embodiments of the invention is shown in a schematic perspective view in FIG. 10. The structure has general dimensions of width (W), length (L) and thickness (T) as labeled in the accompanying x-y-z coordinate system. The light transport structure has a low aspect ratio defined by T/L. In an exemplary design, T is on the order of three to five mm and L is between about 300 mm-500 mm. The width (W) may vary depending upon the overall system geometry (e.g., rectangular, circular, pie-shaped, etc.). The light transport structure has a top surface portion 1021 and a bottom surface portion 1022 separated by the thickness (T), and an exit-end 1024 where the light exits the light transport structure as indicated by the solid arrows. The light transport structure, in essence an optical waveguide, advantageously has a higher index of refraction n1 within the structure and a lower or equal index of refraction n2 at the top and bottom surface portions or immediately adjacent thereto such that light is principally propagated within the structure via total internal reflection (TIR) as represented by the dotted arrows. Portions of the appropriate top and/or bottom surfaces may also have a reflective coating to aid in the propagation of residual light that is not totally internally reflected.
  • FIG. 11 schematically shows in cross section an illustrative light transport structure 1150 incorporating two illustrative light directing structures 1102, 1104. Light directing structure 1104 is a surface of the light transport structure made by a partial transverse lateral cut extending from a region of bottom surface portion 1022. For light directing structure 1104, focusing radiation 1130 from a primary concentrator (not shown) associated with light directing structure 1104 is intercepted at its focal point by the light directing structure 1104. Depending upon the angle orientation of the light directing structure 1104, focused radiation is primarily totally internally reflected from surface 1104 since the notched area behind the surface has an index n2 (e.g., air) less than or equal to the index n1 of the light transport structure (e.g., PMMA). Alternatively or in addition, similar light directing structure 1102 is a surface of the light transport structure made by a partial transverse lateral cut extending from a region of top surface portion 1021. For light directing structure 1102, focusing radiation 1132 from a primary concentrator (not shown) associated with light directing structure 1102 is intercepted at its focal point by the light directing structure 1102. Shaded area 1103 represents a reflective coating on surface 1102 that reflects the incident focused light 1132 into the structure for subsequent TIR propagation towards the exit-end of the structure. The exact angular orientation of the light directing structures will depend upon the nature of the reflection process, the lens' f/#s, and the transport structure index of refraction n2. The notched region behind the light directing structure 1104 may, for example, be filled with a lower index dielectric material to facilitate TIR into the light transport structure.
  • FIGS. 12-14 illustrate alternative aspects of the light transport structure and integrated light directing structures. In each case, the light transport structure has an index of refraction n2>1 and is surrounded by air with index n1=1.
  • In FIG. 12, light transport structure 1250 is shown having a planar top surface 1201 and an echelon-type bottom surface 1202; that is, the bottom surface includes a plurality of light directing structures 1210 n similar to those described and labeled 1104 in FIG. 11. The bottom surface portions 1209 n leading up to each light directing structure are straight ramps. Focused light 1230 1 coming from a respective primary light concentrator (not shown) associated with light directing structure 1210 1 primarily totally internally reflects off of surface 1210 1 onto ramp portion 1209 2 from which it is further primarily totally internally reflected and still further primarily totally internally reflected as it propagates in direction L towards exit-end 1224 where it will be output.
  • FIG. 13 schematically shows in cross section a stepped-surface light transport structure 1350 that is similar to light transport structure 1250 except that the bottom surface portions 1309 n preceding each respective light directing structure 1310 n are parallel to top surface portion 1301 and, the width of the light transport structure increases at each step by the height of each respective light directing structure as shown.
  • FIG. 14 shows another alternative design for the light transport structure and light directing structures. In this case, top surface portion 1401 is stepped parallel to continuously planar bottom surface portion 1402. It will be appreciated that the transport structures shown in cross section in FIGS. 11-14 may, for example, be extruded and thus have a straight width dimension or may be curved, for example, to follow the shape of the primary light concentrators (e.g., annular/cylindrical).
  • FIG. 15 is a schematic top plan view of a light transport structure 1550 with discrete light directing structures 1510 TOP extending from the top surface portion 1501 and light directing structures 1510 BOT extending from the bottom surface portion 1502.
  • FIGS. 16 and 17, respectively, illustrate alternative light transport structures 1650, 1750 having individually continuous top and bottom light directing structures 1610 TOP, 1610 BOT and 1710 TOP, 1710 BOT, which depend upon the geometry of each of their respective primary light concentrators (not shown).
  • The width of the focused light spots on their respective light directing structures will depend, in part, upon the thickness of the system. The thickness may influence the dimensions of the light directing structures. Thus, for example, if the tilted reflecting surface of a light directing structure is between about 130 μm-140 μm with a base dimension of about 130 μm and a height dimension of about 140 μm, then the width of the focused light may advantageously be about 100 μm (i.e., 100 μm diameter; 100 μm×length of cylindrical primary concentrator, etc.). These dimensions provide certain room for alignment error between the primary concentrator focus direction and the location of each respective light directing structure. A more detailed numerical example will be described below.
  • Due to the stringent and challenging alignment requirements, the primary concentrator surfaces and the light directing structures may advantageously be manufactured as an integrated unit to alleviate or minimize misalignment therebetween.
  • Alternative contemplated embodiments of the light transport structure may include light directing structures that are wholly embedded within the light transport structure. Examples of such light transport structure may include prisms, gratings, quantum dots, photonic crystals, and other structures that would be able to provide the required function of the light directing structures with or without primary focusing elements.
  • Secondary Light Concentrator
  • As described above, the light propagated in the light transport structure is outcoupled at the exit-end of the light transport structure as shown, e.g., at 1024 in FIG. 10. While the thickness, T, of the light transport structure may be on the order of 3 mm-5 mm in an exemplary aspect, the width, W, of the light transport structure (see FIG. 10) need not be constrained except that the structure is intended to cumulatively concentrate all of the light input to the light transport structure at the exit-end for ultimate input to a PV cell, as schematically illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. The limited entrance aperture of a PV cell located adjacent (advantageously, immediately adjacent) the exit-end of the transport structure may benefit from further concentration of the propagating light, in which case a secondary concentrator between the exit-end of the transport structure and the PV cell will be advantageous.
  • FIGS. 18A, 18B schematically illustrate two, exemplary, differently shaped secondary concentrators 1800-1, 1800-2 in the form of a parabolic concentrator and a straight-trapezoidal concentrator, respectively. As shown, for example, in FIG. 18A, a primary concentrator section 1802 has a plurality of primary light concentrators, which focus incident light 1 into a single light transport structure 1804 having a respective plurality of light directing structures (not shown). The light is propagated in the transport structure in the direction L by TIR. A separate compound parabolic secondary concentrator 1800-1 is shown directly coupled (e.g., cemented) to the exit-end of the transport structure, whereupon the surface 1801 of the secondary concentrator becomes the ultimate exit-end of the transport structure. Rather than being a separate component, the secondary concentrator 1800-1 (1800-2) may be an integral end of an extruded or molded light transport structure in the shape of a compound parabola (1800-1) or straight trapezoid (1800-2), for example (other appropriate shapes are not excluded). Depending upon the design of the secondary light concentrator, propagating light may continue to be totally internally reflected until out-coupled or, may be otherwise reflected until out-coupled. Accordingly, the secondary concentrator may be of the same or a different material than the transport structure; may be solid, hollow, gas-filled, or otherwise constructed as appropriate to perform its intended function.
  • Various embodiments of a light collection and concentration system have thus been described, including various embodiments and aspects of the components that constitute the system. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that based upon system geometry and other design parameters, design tradeoffs will be required to optimize some or all of the various system parameters including, but not limited to, collection efficiency, concentration ratio, system dimensions, component dimensions, light direction techniques, and others.
  • While specific embodiments of the present invention have been described herein, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that many equivalents, modifications, substitutions, and variations may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

Claims (41)

1. A light collection and concentration system, comprising:
a primary light concentrator having a focusing power, disposed to intercept a solar light input and concentrate said input in a light concentration location;
a light transport structure having a top surface portion and an opposing bottom surface separated by an interior region, and an exit-end, characterized by a length dimension in an intended light propagation direction towards the exit-end, wherein said interior region has an index of refraction that is greater than an index of refraction immediately adjacent the top and bottom surfaces; and
a light directing structure integrally disposed in or on the light transport structure in a location that coincides with the light concentration location, which is optically coupled to the primary light concentrator, wherein the light directing structure can direct a concentrated solar light input from the primary concentrator along the intended light propagation direction towards the exit-end.
2. The system of claim 1, comprising a plurality of the primary light concentrators and a respective plurality of the light directing structures.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of the primary light concentrators is in the form of a planar, spaced array.
4. The system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of the primary light concentrators is in the form of at least a portion of immediately adjacent concentric rings, further wherein the intended light propagation direction is in a radially inward direction
5. The system of claim 2, wherein the plurality of the primary light concentrators is in the form of immediately transversely adjacent, straight cylinders, further wherein the intended light propagation direction is transverse to the longitudinal axes of the cylinders.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary light concentrator is a reflective element.
7. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary light concentrator is a refractive element.
8. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary light concentrator is a diffractive element.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein the light transport structure is in the form of a low aspect ratio sheet.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein the light directing structure comprises an angled light-reflecting surface extending inwardly from at least one of the top surface portion and the bottom surface portion of the transport structure.
11. The system of claim 10, wherein the light directing structure comprises a lateral cut in at least one of the top surface portion and the bottom surface portion of the transport structure.
12. The system of claim 10, wherein the angled light-reflecting surface is flat.
13. The system of claim 10, wherein the angled light-reflecting surface is curved.
14. The system of claim 10, wherein the angled light-reflecting surface has a transverse extent in the transport structure that coincides with a transverse extent of a respective primary light concentrator.
15. The system of claim 10, wherein at least one of the top surface and the bottom surface of the transport structure is flat and at least one of the bottom surface and the top surface of the transport structure is stepped, wherein the angled light-reflecting surface of the light directing structure connects a stepped region and an immediately adjacent stepped region of the transport structure.
16. The system of claim 15, wherein the stepped regions are flat.
17. The system of claim 15, wherein the stepped regions are inclined.
18. The system of claim 10, wherein the angled light-reflecting surface is disposed at an angle that supports total internal reflection from the top or bottom surface immediately adjacent the angled light-reflecting surface.
19. The system of claim 10, wherein the light directing structure is an air prism.
20. The system of claim 1, further comprising a photo-voltaic cell disposed to receive the light out-coupled from the exit end of the light transport structure.
21. The system of claim 1, further comprising a secondary light concentrator that is coupled to the exit-end to further concentrate and out-couple the propagated light from within the light transport structure, wherein the secondary light concentrator has an exit-end having an area that is smaller than the exit-end area of the light transport structure.
22. The system of claim 21, wherein the secondary light concentrator is an optical element directly coupled to the exit-end of the transport structure.
23. The system of claim 21, wherein the secondary light concentrator is in the form of an integrally shaped exit-end region of the light transport structure.
24. The system of claim 23, wherein the secondary light concentrator is a compound parabolically-shaped exit-end region of the transport structure.
25. The system of claim 23, wherein the secondary light concentrator is a compound trapezoidally-shaped exit-end region of the transport structure.
26. The system of claim 1, wherein a unit-system comprises a plurality of the primary light concentrators, a respective plurality of the light directing structures, and only a single light transport structure.
27. The system of claim 26, further comprising a photo-voltaic (PV) cell disposed in a location to receive light out-coupled from the exit-end of one of the light transport structure and an exit-end of an secondary light concentrator.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein the secondary light concentrator is disposed between the exit-end of the light transport structure and the PV cell.
29. A method for transporting light, comprising:
collecting an initial light input;
optically concentrating said initial light input into a light concentration location;
disposing only a single light transport structure including an integral light directing structure in a location such that a location of the light directing structure coincides with the light concentration location;
changing the propagation direction of the light from an input direction outside of the light transport structure to an output direction inside of light transport structure via the light directing structure; and
propagating the light through the light transport structure to an exit end thereof and into a PV cell.
30. The method of claim 29, comprising changing the propagation direction of the light only at a top surface region of the light transport structure.
31. The method of claim 29, comprising changing the propagation direction of the light only at a bottom surface region of the light transport structure.
32. The method of claim 29, comprising changing the propagation direction of the light at both a top surface region and a bottom surface region of the light transport structure.
33. The method of claim 29, comprising changing the propagation direction of the light by approximately 90 degrees.
34. The method of claim 29, comprising changing the propagation direction of the light only by total internal reflection.
35. The method of claim 29, comprising propagating the light through the light transport structure only by total internal reflection.
36. The method of claim 29, comprising propagating the light through the light transport structure by total internal reflection and diffuse reflection.
37. The method of claim 29, comprising further concentrating the light propagating through the light transport structure prior to outputting the light from the light transport structure and inputting the light to the PV cell.
38. The method of claim 29, comprising optically concentrating said initial light input into a circular spot.
39. The method of claim 29, comprising optically concentrating said initial light input into a rectangular spot.
40. The method of claim 29, comprising optically concentrating said initial light input into a non-circular, non-rectangular spot.
41. The method of claim 29, further comprising:
collecting a plurality of initial light inputs;
optically concentrating each of said plurality of initial light inputs into a respective plurality of light concentration locations;
wherein said only a single light transport structure includes a respective plurality of integral light directing structures in locations coinciding with the plurality of light concentration locations.
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EP09826481A EP2356380A1 (en) 2008-11-12 2009-08-04 Light collection and concentration system
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CN102272537B (en) 2013-09-04
CN102272538B (en) 2013-07-10
EP2356380A1 (en) 2011-08-17
EP2356379A1 (en) 2011-08-17
ES2364665B1 (en) 2012-05-23
WO2010056382A1 (en) 2010-05-20
CN102272537A (en) 2011-12-07
WO2010056405A1 (en) 2010-05-20
US20100116319A1 (en) 2010-05-13
CN102272538A (en) 2011-12-07
US8320045B2 (en) 2012-11-27
ES2364665A1 (en) 2011-09-12

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