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Giant Leap Technologies is developing a new form of solar collector for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants that is based on thin and electronically-controllable active mirror arrays formed by liquid-carrying capillaries within a transparent solid. This new Microfluidic Light Steering (MLS) collector can capture sunlight from horizon-to-horizon while concentrating and steering it into a solar thermal receiver for electric power generation.
This project will refine the design and reduce the size of MLS collectors to roughly the thickness of a car’s windshield, which allows the technology to be cost-effective. This type of digital glass has the potential to replace traditional mechanical solar collectors, like heliostats, which can weigh tons and require large amounts of steel, concrete, and land area. MLS collectors use a fraction of today’s materials, while also drastically reducing the area needed for solar power plants.
An observer looking at an MLS collector would initially see nothing more than a solid transparent slab. However, once light shines onto it, the transparent block of material will jump to life and internal mirrors dynamically form to redirect sunlight. The capability is ultimately based on micron-scale capillaries containing a refractive index matching fluid that is distributed within a transparent solid. The physical distribution of the fluid within the capillaries allows light to be steered to a solar receiver, where it can be captured and turned into energy.