Masdar Institute develops high performance solar absorber

Technology will make the use of solar thermal resources more efficient for energy consumption

Image Credit: Masdar Institute
Masdar Institute and MIT used transmission electron microscopes to study the functioning of nano particles in solar absorbers and develop the new technology.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: In a continued drive towards harnessing the sun as a source of energy, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology on Monday announced that they have developed a high performance solar absorber, making the use of solar thermal applications more efficient.

The solar absorber was developed with the partnership of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is able to absorb nearly 100 per cent of the sunlight’s energy with its ultrathin nanocomposite film made from silver and silica.

“The technology developed through this collaborative research effort demonstrates our commitment to generating innovations that will enable the UAE to achieve its diversified energy goals through sustainable solutions specifically targeted at advancing the energy sector,” said Dr Steve Griffiths, interim executive vice president for research at Khalifa University of Science and Technology, of which Masdar Institute is a part of.

“This research is also a testament to the Institute’s commitment to scientific rigour and excellence, which produces the intellectual and human capital critical to the country’s knowledge-economy transformation,” he added.

Professor TieJun Zhang, one of Masdar’s researchers involved on the project, said the team used microscopy tools to study the preliminary solar absorber design, which became the basis for the development of the nanocomposite film.

“Transmission electron microscopes enable us to see through the materials, beyond the surface and deep within the nanocomposite solar absorber.

“With this vision, we observed that traditional solar absorbers, thought to be made of smooth, continuous composite layers, were actually filled with tiny nano-particles of each composite element and large nano-particles on the top surface. We discovered that it is the presence of these topping nano-particles that make absorbers more efficient. This knowledge became the basis for development of our nanocomposite film,” he added.

Prof Zhang also said the technology was developed based on the needs of the UAE, and were made to address some of the problems being faced by solar energy production.

“From the beginning, this project was focused on meeting the exact needs of CSP (concentrated solar power) in the UAE. With support from the University-Industry Research Collaboration Award from the NRF, we were able to work closely with engineers at UAE’s 100MW CSP plant and Mr Abdul Aziz Al Obaidli, the general manager of Shams Power Company, to identify some of the key problems associated with solar energy production.

“This helped us develop appropriate and regionally-relevant solutions needed to accelerate the performance of CSP systems in the UAE,” he added.

Professor Gang Chen from MIT, said the technology could feature in several different beneficial applications for the UAE.

“The technology we have demonstrated is particularly attractive for a hot-arid region, such as Abu Dhabi, with potential applications in waste water treatment, seawater desalination, and power generation,” he said.

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