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Optics for concentrating photovoltaics: Trends, limits and opportunities for materials and design

Shanks, Katie; Senthilarasu, Sundaram; Mallick, Tapas K


Katie Shanks

Tapas K Mallick


Concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems are a key step in expanding the use of solar energy. Solar cells can operate at increased efficiencies under higher solar concentration and replacing solar cells with optical devices to capture light is an effective method of decreasing the cost of a system without compromising the amount of solar energy absorbed. However, CPV systems are still in a stage of development where new designs, methods and materials are still being created in order to reach a low levelled cost of energy comparable to standard silicon based PV systems. This article outlines the different types of concentration photovoltaic systems, their various design advantages and limitations, and noticeable trends. This will include comparisons on materials used, optical efficiency and optical tolerance (acceptance angle). As well as reviewing the recent development in the most commonly used and most established designs such as the Fresnel lens and parabolic trough/dish, novel optics and materials are also suggested. The aim of this review is to provide the reader with an understanding of the many types of solar concentrators and their reported advantages and disadvantages. This review should aid the development of solar concentrator optics by highlighting the successful trends and emphasising the importance of novel designs and materials in need of further research. There is a vast opportunity for solar concentrator designs to expand into other scientific fields and take advantage of these developed resources. Solar concentrator technologies have many layers and factors to be considered when designing. This review attempts to simplify and categorise these layers and stresses the significance of comparing as many of the applicable factors as possible when choosing the right design for an application.

From this review, it has been ascertained that higher concentration levels are being achieved and will likely continue to increase as high performance high concentration designs are developed. Fresnel lenses have been identified as having a greater optical tolerance than reflective parabolic concentrators but more complex homogenisers are being developed for both system types which improve multiple performance factors. Trends towards higher performance solar concentrator designs include the use of micro-patterned structures and attention to detailed design such as tailoring secondary optics to primary optics and vice-versa. There is still a vast potential for what materials and surface structures could be utilised for solar concentrator designs especially if inspiration is taken from biological structures already proven to manipulate light in nature.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 14, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 6, 2016
Publication Date 2016-07
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2023
Print ISSN 1364-0321
Electronic ISSN 1879-0690
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Pages 394-407
Keywords Renewable energy, Solar, Concentrating photovoltaic, Materials, Biomimicry


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