Green investment in Portugal
Lightweight membrane optics is a pioneering discipline in the generation of solar energy. Who would imagine that high-tech devices for industrial use were being developed in a remote workshop in the Alentejo? In September 2014, the solar village of Tamera received 100,000 dollars from an Indian client to take this development a step further. The technique builds on the principle of the fixed-focus mirror, as used in Tamera for cooking with the Scheffler mirror. But the latter does not need to be high precision to reach a temperature of 200°.
The developer Dr. Douglas Baillie says: “The smaller we can make the light’s focus point, the higher the temperature that can be produced and the more applications can be envisaged.”
The mirror could be of interest to all local industrial companies that need high temperatures e.g. for melting glass, firing ceramics or metallurgy, but also in bakeries and in the production of lime, used for waterproofing in clay building. The Indian investor wants to produce an initial prototype with the licences, with which plastic waste can be recycled to make oil.
It will take some time until it is ready to be used in practice. But the test mirror developed so far has already reached usable heat of 1000° C. To do so, many months of intensive trial and error, brainstorming, breakthrough ideas and painstaking error elimination were needed. The breakthrough idea came with the design of inflatable cushions made of polymer membranes in functional shapes. The idea is to assemble six of the mirror segments shown in the photo into a segment mirror. The prototype is then expected to generate up to 2 kW.
Douglas Baillie: “Normally this kind of research is done at large universities with big budgets and access to extensive pools of expertise. Although we cannot match that in terms of precision and clout, we have already had great success in the area of small, light systems.”
Last year, another investor from Australia enabled further research to be carried out. With no conditions, he gave them 100,000 euros to continue the work. Baillie: “For me, that is an example of the investment of the future: such unconditional support for a new, pioneering technology also enables a small development laboratory to build up a team that can dedicate itself to the work.” The first prototype is expected to be ready in the summer of 2016.