-- This project is inactive. --

3M Company, under the 2012 SunShot Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) R&D FOA, is developing high-reflectivity films and high-rigidity structures that can replace current solar collectors that use heavy glass mirrors. Solar collectors represent the most expensive component of a CSP system.


The research team is creating a new set of technologies, including novel reflective films, reflector panels, space-frame structural elements, and adaptive optics. The goals of this project include:

  • A 50% reduction in solar-field equipment cost
  • A 30% reduction in field installation cost
  • A 15% improvement in optical efficiency over existing heliostat designs with the potential to double solar-flux density.

These components can be used as open-source elements for next-generation solar collector designs. The open-source nature of the optical technologies is expected to offer a new design space for CSP system designers and drive down the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) by increasing the performance of the CSP solar field.

3M is producing high flux lightweight reflectors with lightweight, high-precision panels combined with unique multilayer optical film technology. 


The 3M project consists of several unique aspects that can have a higher impact on the LCOE when combined than if individual components were addressed separately. The reflective materials target a very high hemispherical and specular reflectance using multilayer optical film technology that is unique to 3M. The panel uses an optically accurate structural technology used for parabolic trough test loops, which is being further developed for low-cost and high-performance heliostats. In addition, the novel dual-axis-tracking concept for adaptive optics is being explored to allow the reflector facets to be optimally positioned for focusing solar radiation onto the target. The combination of these elements into a system allows for a synergistic design with extremely high potential for high optical accuracy at lower cost per energy delivered.

Publications, Patents, and Awards

Final Report

Project Fact Sheet

The SunShot CSP R&D program seeks to accelerate progress toward the cost target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour through novel and revolutionary research into CSP technologies. Learn about other concentrating solar power research.