LED Solar Simulator CreatedCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 30, 2012 10:03AM
Previous news items have discussed solar power and the efficiencies of new designs or photovoltaic materials. Those efficiencies are measured by shining a known amount of light onto the solar panel, and measuring the output. Traditionally these solar simulators are incandescent lamps or a type of discharge lamp, like a xenon arc. Now researchers at the NIST have created a new LED-based solar simulator that could greatly speed up the testing of solar cells, which will also accelerate innovation in the field.
Using an array of 32 LEDs the simulator generates a range of the electromagnetic spectrum, near that of what the Sun produces. For testing the output of a solar panel, these LEDs can be cycled through in about 6 minutes, which is less than the 10 minute goal solar energy experts set in 2010. However, by having all of the LEDs flashing at different frequencies, the same device can produce a slightly less accurate output measurement for all of the frequencies in just 4 seconds.
As great an accomplishment as this is in solar energy research, the researchers have more to do. They want the device to be able to match or even exceed the intensity of natural sunlight and also widen the spectrum it produces, to include more of what the Sun produces. Also they hope to reduce the uncertainty of their measurements to below 1%.