It's been a tough few years for purveyors of concentrated photovoltaics (CPV). Despite having far higher conversion efficiencies than the flat-plate silicon and thin-film PV panels that are an increasingly familiar sight on residential rooftops all over the world, the machinations of the wider PV market has driven all but a handful out of business.
So it's interesting to see that the US is now investing $24 million into the development of what might be termed "CPV 2.0". That cash is aimed at finding ways to cut the cost of the expensive two-axis tracking systems needed to keep the sun's rays focused on the tiny but high-performance multi-junction cells used in CPV systems.
Instead of turning the entire system towards the sun as it moves, the basic idea is to use clever optics or micro-trackers instead. It might sound like a bit of a long-shot, but if successful that could mean a future where rooftop systems use "micro-CPV" to deliver renewable energy at a far lower cost than is possible today. And with the likes of Sharp and Panasonic involved, it appears that there is real commercial interest.
Elsewhere this week, we report on new display technology in the form of quantum dot monitors, an innovation designed to improve TV watching for the millions of color-blind people around the world, and a new approach to light-sheet microscopy that can image an entire central nervous system.