seeing green

Houston researchers create unprecedented solar energy technology that improves on efficiency

Two researchers out of the University of Houston have ideated a way to efficiently harvest carbon-free energy 24 hours a day. Photo via Getty Images

Two Houstonians have developed a new system of harvesting solar energy more efficiently.

Bo Zhao, the Kalsi Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, along with his doctoral student Sina Jafari Ghalekohneh, have created a technology that theoretically allows solar energy to be harvested to the thermodynamic limit, which is the absolute maximum rate sunlight can be converted into electricity, as reported in a September article for Physical Review Applied.

Traditional solar thermophotovoltaics (STPVs), or the engines used to extract electrical power from thermal radiation, run at an efficiency limit of 85.4 percent, according to a statement from UH. Zhao and Ghalekohneh's system was able to reach a rate of 93.3 percent, also known as the Landsberg Limit.

To reach this new rate, the team proposed that a nonreciprocal STPV system be used, which reduces back emissions from the STPV to the sun within the technology's intermediate layer (or the side facing the sun).

"Our work highlights the great potential of nonreciprocal thermal photonic components in energy applications. The proposed system offers a new pathway to improve the performance of STPV systems significantly," Zhao says in the release. "It may pave the way for nonreciprocal systems to be implemented in practical STPV systems currently used in power plants.”

Additionally, the team also shows that STPVs can also be used with an economical thermal energy storage unit, allowing for solar energy to be generated 24 hours a day.

Houston is on the forefront of solar energy developments. In April, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had granted a permit to transform a vacant landfill into the $70 million Sunnyside Solar Farm. It’s slated to be the largest urban solar farm in the country and will remove an estimated 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, according to officials.

Bo Zhao, Kalsi Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering, and his doctoral student, Sina Jafari Ghalekohneh, have created new architecture that improves the efficiency of solar energy harvesting to the thermodynamic limit. Photo via uh.edu


Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

The Ion has announced its latest startup-focused program. MediaTech Venture's Houston startup incubator is launching next month. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Houston has a new incoming incubator program for innovators within the media technology space.

The Ion announced a new partnership with MediaTech Ventures, an Austin-based global media industry venture development company, that will bring the MediaTech incubator program to Houston. Applications are open now, and the first cohort will kick off the program in January.

“Modern media has to continually evolve and adapt to new market channels, and with each platform comes the opportunity for innovation to leverage what is possible. It’s why Houston continues to build its market and resources for media technology entrepreneurs and startups looking to make an impact in this constantly evolving space,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion, in a news release.

“We’re thrilled to partner with MediaTech Ventures to further bolster the startups that are an integral part of our innovation community," he continues.

The 12-week program will help early-stage companies tackle marketing, development, and production with education and mentorship with MediaTech Ventures' startup curriculum and platform. The Ion will house the initiative and startups will have access to the hub for programming and networking.

“Ion is the perfect home for our incubator program,” says Josh Sutton, Houston Program Manager at MediaTech Ventures, in the release. “Our goal is to not only tap into the Ion’s valuable innovation ecosystem both within its four walls and beyond it, but to catalyze the development of media technologies and offer more resources for entrepreneurs looking to advance modern media.”

Founded in 2016 to advance the media technology economy, MediaTech Ventures focuses on "unifying innovation with capital, and validating and scaling technology-enabled media startups," per the news release. The program's startups have raised over $10 million following the completion of the curriculum.

An info session is taking place on December 5 at Second Draught in the Ion, and interested applicants can meet, ask questions, and learn more about the program.

Trending News