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UArizona’s Norwood Awarded $3.7M by DOE for Solar Technologies

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2017
TUCSON, Ariz. — Robert Norwood, a University of Arizona professor of optical sciences, has been awarded $3.7 million dollars in two separate programs by the Department of Energy's Advance Research Programs Agency (ARPA-E) to make significant advances in the efficiency of both photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies.

Robert Norwood, a University of Arizona professor of optical sciences.ARPA-E selects technology development projects based on their ability to enhance the nation’s economic and energy security. Successfully selected projects promise to help reduce energy-related emissions, improve energy efficiency in all economic sectors and ensure the United States maintains a technological advantage in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.

"Dr. Norwood’s selection for two ARAPA-E projects is a testament to the outstanding value of his research in optics and photonics for the nation – but it also brings tremendous benefit to our students," said Thomas Koch, dean of the university’s College of Optical Sciences. "Dr. Norwood’s work exemplifies the vast contributions that Optical Sciences makes as an enabling technology for our future; in this case it is energy, but its impact ranges from national security to biomedicine, communications and entertainment technology."

Norwood’s solar energy work spans two specific technology development programs called FOCUS and MOSAIC. FOCUS, or Full Spectrum Optimized Collection and Utilization of Sunlight, seeks to create hybrid solar energy systems that combine the best elements of photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies to get the most out of the full solar spectrum, generating both electricity and heat within the same system.

"The key to our approach in FOCUS is the design of a proprietary, dichroic mirror that spectrally separates the solar spectrum, sending the most efficient parts of the spectrum to the appropriate conversion technology mounted in an integrated unit," Norwood said. "The demonstration should show successful and efficient collection of sunlight for both photovoltaic electricity and heat that can directly [be] used or stored to enable the generation of electricity after the sun goes down."

The other program known as MOSAIC, or Micro-Scale Optimized Solar-Cell Arrays Integrated Concentration, seeks to develop technologies and concepts that will lower the cost of solar photovoltaic systems and improve their performance. Photovoltaic systems currently generate about only 1.1 percent of the total power in the U.S.. For various reasons, existing photovoltaic technology will have to improve dramatically before the technology becomes economical enough for mainstream market adaptation. MOSAIC seeks to advance the efficiency of domestic use of photovoltaics through concentration methods that use optical components to concentrate sunlight by more than 200 times into high efficiency solar sells, leading overall panel efficiencies exceeding 30 percent.

"One of the chief limitations of solar energy is the large area that is required to generate useful amounts of energy; our MOSAIC program will enable cost effective reduction of this area by 50 percent,” Norwood said.

ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.
 

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