Magnifying glasses have been around almost as long as glass. As far as technology goes, there’s not a whole lot that’s cutting edge about them. But imagine a thin sheet of millions of tiny little magnifying glasses, and imagine what would happen if you laid that over a solar panel as the top sheet.
A California company, HyperSolar, is doing just that. The company has filed a patent for its new solar top sheet and expects to roll out a new prototype early next year, said CEO Tim Young.
The new top sheet, composed of thousands of tiny magnifiers, intensifies the sun and directs it, Young said.
Now, you might be remembering what happened when you held a magnifying glass “just so” to the sun on the playground—lighting things on fire and cooking others.
Magnifying the sun is typically associated with creating dangerous heat.
But Young said HyperSolar has found a way to properly angle its magnifiers so it magnifies without burning the solar panel it’s on.
“The typical crystalline solar cell can handle up to six suns worth of heat,” Young said. “Our magnifying layer will heat it up but not beyond sustainability—about three or four suns.”
The sheet is designed to create efficiency, Young said.
“The layer is designed to get more power into a solar cell, thus more power out,” he said.
The way the sheet will revolutionize the industry, Young said, will be by reducing cost.
About 80 percent of the cost of modern photovoltaic solar panels is in the silicon cells, Young said. If manufacturers could create panes with the same output while using fewer cells and less silicon, it would reduce the expense of solar, he said.
While it’s becoming increasingly popular, solar power still only accounts for about 1 percent of the world’s energy production, Young said.
“It really hasn’t reached its tipping point yet,” he said. “People love the technology. They love the idea of getting energy from the sun. But it has to be economically feasible.”
While government incentives have made the technology more accessible and appealing, the technology itself is still expensive.
“If you need a government subsidy, it’s not really sustainable, right?” Young said. “Our goal is to enable solar panel manufacturers to reduce costs.”
HyperSolar will not compete with current panel manufacturers, but will sell its top sheet to existing companies, so they can begin the work of producing lower-cost solar panels, Young said.
As of Feb. 24, HyperSolar has still not received a patent for the top sheet.