Researchers at IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Swiss laboratories are in the process of designing a high concentration solar photovoltaic thermal system (HCPVT) that concentrates solar radiation by a factor of 2,000 and converts 75% into usable energy.

Quoted in Green Futures, Dr Andreas Bett of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany said, “This cogeneration solar project is challenging and ambitious. It promises practical, highly efficient solar radiation conversion systems in the foreseeable future.”


A parabolic reflector tracks the sun and focuses its rays onto an array of triple-junction photovoltaic chips. To prevent them melting, the array uses microchannel water-cooling, a technique also used in high-performance computers, which circulates the coolant to within a few tens of micrometres of the chips.

The array holds hundreds of 1cm2 standard commercial chips, each generating 50W of electricity – a 30% solar energy conversion rate. The system’s energy conversion rate is boosted to over 75% by using the coolant’s waste heat to power desalination or air-cooling units.

Currently, the best conversion rate for concentration photovoltaic systems is around 60% but IBM’s innovation promises a significant shift.

The US multinational is developing the project in collaboration with Airlight Energy, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the NTB Interstate University of Applied Sciences and the 100m2 dish prototype system is expected to be ready in three years.

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