Engineering Challenges for Developing the SunCell’s Concentrator Photovoltaic Cells and Geodesic Dome Array (Michael Lammert)

The following post has been submitted by Michael Lammert

Engineering Challenges for Developing the SunCell’s Concentrator Photovoltaic Cells and Geodesic Dome Array

Michael Lammert (AKA Dr. Mike)

1-29-2107

     Brilliant Light Power (BLP) has made significant progress in the development of their SunCell over the last several months, including the ability to operate at a sustained energy output without having to supply ignition energy to the system, at an output level sufficient to heat a blackbody radiator to 3000ºK.  Although there certainly is still a lot of work left to do to perfect the light generation portion of the SunCell system, there remains the large task of developing the concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) cells and the geodesic dome array to capture the energy from the blackbody radiator.  The primary challenges that I see in the development of the SunCell’s CPV cells and the geodesic dome array include:

  • increasing the metal thickness on the illuminated side of the cell sufficiently to handle the high currents in the large area triangular shaped cells needed to form a geodesic dome array,
  • improving the design of the semiconductor layers within the CPV cell to accommodate higher current densities,
  • achieving extremely low resistance and low stress connections between cells that form the geodesic array, and
  • verifying that the blackbody radiator is emitting energy uniformly at the distance the CPV cells will be from the radiator.

Background Information

      Considerable information about the SunCell can be found on Brilliant Light Power’s website.  In particular, Brilliant Light Power’s 12-6-2016 video presentation on the SunCell provides information on the SunCell’s design and future development plans.  Since it is doubtful that many took the time to listen to the entire two hour presentation, below is some of the important information from that presentation as I understand it:

  1. Min 41-44:  A peak pulse power of 5MW can be achieved with the average pulse power being 1MW with a pulse width of about 1msec.   1000 pulses per sec are needed to achieve 1MW output power.
  2. Min 44: The initial target temperature for the blackbody radiator will be 3000ºK. (The temperature is to be increased to 3500ºK after the triple junction cells become available.)
  3. Min 46:  The triple junction CPV cells will be built by Masimo.  (Data on one commercial concentrator solar cell built by Masimo- Part No. BFG3-2BB-1010-A10 can be found on-line.  Also, technical papers discussing their bi-facial growth, triple junction CPV cells can be found on-line.)
  4. Min 52: The CPV cells will be arrayed in a geodesic dome design.
  5. Min 54-55: Low energy light (IR) will be reflected back to the blackbody source to improve efficiency.
  6. Min 57:  The CPV cells will be grown by MOCVD (metal-organic chemical vapor deposition).
  7. Min 64: The ignition can be turned off when blackbody radiator reaches ~3000ºK. (My assumption is that once an ignition source is no longer needed, the rate at which energy is delivered to the blackbody radiator is controlled by rate that fuel is supplied to the system, although this was not stated in the presentation.)
  8. Min 65-67: The plan for adding CPV cells to the system includes starting with an operating temperature of 3000ºK, use single junction cells with about10% efficiency to achieve an output 33KW.   Next about 20% efficiency double junction cells will be used to achieve 66KW output power, and then 40% efficiency triple junction cells will be used to achieve ~130KW output power.  Finally, blackbody radiator temperature will be increased to 3500ºK to get output of about 250KW.  (Another statement was made that the target output power for the initial “pilot” application of the triple junction CPV cells will be 100KW.)
  9. Min 65: The blackbody graphite dome is 6”diameter and will output 330KW at 3000ºK
  10. Min 123: The CPV cells will be cooled by water at a 40ºC output temperature from the cooling radiator and at a flow rate to return water at 80ºC from the CPV cells back to the radiator.

Basic Assumptions

Although there is a lot of information about the SunCell design on Brilliant Light Power’s website and in their videos, the details of the CPV array design are not given.  For the purposes of my analysis of the engineering challenges for the array design, I am making these assumptions:

  1. The design of the triple layer CPV cells will be based on a modified and scaled version of an existing commercial concentrator solar cell made by Masimo (Part No. BFG3-2BB-1010-A10).
  2. The CPV cells will be fabricated on 100mm diameter MOCVD wafers, and the cells can be fabricated within 1mm of the edge of the wafer.
  3. From the diagrams of the SunCell it appears that the geodesic dome layout is a basic “2V” design.  The “2V” design of a geodesic dome for a hemisphere would consist of 5 triangles on top, 15 triangles in a second row and 20 triangles in the third row.  The diagram for the SunCell indicates that the CPV cell array would contain another row of 20 triangles to form a ¾ sphere for a total of 60 triangular cells.  Of the 60 triangular cells, 15 cells would be equilateral triangles (A cells) of length A, and 45 cells would be isosceles triangles (B cells) with one side of length A and two sides of length B where A/B = 1.131.
  4. The 60 triangular CPV cells will be connected in series to achieve the highest output voltage at the minimum current, which will minimize losses in electrical connections and losses in wires delivering the power to its load.
  5. The metal grid pattern on the illuminated side of the CPV cell will have a single bus bar along the edge that will be connected to the adjacent cell in the geodesic dome array.
  6. The target initial “pilot” output power for the triple junction array will be 100KW as stated in the 12-6-2016 presentation.

Requirements for the CPV Cell Design

The key issues in designing the CPV cells to be used in the geodesic dome array include the optimization of the cell sizes and the modifications that are required to the existing Masimo concentrator solar cell to make it work in the SunCell.  The optimum cell size for the geodesic array is the largest equilateral triangular cell (the A cell) that can be fitted on a 100mm diameter wafer.  Assuming that the wafer can be patterned to within about 1mm of its edge, the largest A cell that can fit on the 100mm wafer is about 8.5cm (3.35”) on a side.  The smaller B cell will easily fit on the 100mm wafer.  The areas of the A and B cells are 31.3cm2 and 26.3 cm2, respectively, although this active area will be reduced by the area of a bus bar used to make the connection between the cells.  The cell sizes also may be reduced by the need to have a space on the bus bar edge of the cells to make a connection from the cell to the backside of an adjacent cell.

The first issue with scaling a cell size from a little more than 1cm2 to 31cm2 is the defect density in the MOCVD wafer growth.  About 50 1cm2 cells can be fabricated on a 100mm wafer.  If there is a defect in the MOCVD growth (or other defect introduced in fabrication) these defects may cause the cell performance to be so poor that the cell is rejected as a defective cell.  Similar defects in the large area CPV cells fabricated for the SnCell will degrade their performance; however, it would not be economical to reject many of the large area cells as defective.  Therefore the expected spread in the efficiencies of acceptable large area CPV cells will be much larger than the spread shown on the data sheet for the existing 1cm2 cell.  The average efficiency of the large area CPV cells is expected to be lower than that achieved on the existing 1cm2 cells, but it would be difficult to predict how much lower without knowing the defect density associated with fabricating the smaller cells.

The single biggest factor in scaling the existing 1cm2 Masimo concentrator solar cells up to a much larger area CPV cell is the need to scale up the metal conductor thickness to handle the higher currents.  A triangular cell that is to be connected to an adjacent triangular cell is not the ideal shape for a CPV cell because the metal grid line length will vary from close to zero at the ends of the bus bar to the height of the triangular cell at the center of the bus bar.  The metal thickness should be scaled to the length of the longest conductor length (distance to a connected bus bar) which is 0.5cm for the existing cell.  (This assumes that electrical connections are made to both bus bars in an application of the existing device.)  It’s hard to say what the metal configuration will be on the triangular cells, but the minimum longest conductor length in the metal grid would be the height of the triangular cell, about 7cm, so the metal thickness should be scaled by 7cm / 0.5cm = 14.  Furthermore, the existing device is rated at a maximum current density of 16A/cm2 at a 1200X illumination concentration.  Assuming the scaled CPV cells have a similar 3.0 volt output/cell, the cell current density will have to be more than 21A/cm2 to achieve 100KW of output power.  The metal thickness should be increased by another 30% to accommodate the higher current densities.  Therefore, the metal thickness should be increased by a factor of 18 times the thickness of the metal used on the existing devices.  My guess is that it will take a considerable development effort to increase the metal thicknesses by this factor on the triangular CPV cells both from difficulties in patterning the thick conductor lines and in maintaining a low stress in the thick metal lines so the cells are not bowed by the stress in the metal lines.  The backside metal thickness would need to be increased by a similar factor.  Increasing the back metal thickness should not be much of a challenge other than to make sure the thicker metal has low stress and does not bow the CPV cell.  (Note: If the thickness of the front side metallization was 200µm, about 1/3 the cell thickness, the voltage drop along the center grid fingers would be about 0.3V for 10% metal coverage of the front surface.  Ideally, the front metallization voltage drops would be less than 0.1V.)

One other issue with triangular shaped CPV cells is that if the cell is laid out with minimum length metal lines (straight lines perpendicular to the bus bar) the current will not flow into the bus bar uniformly (near zero at the ends, and very high in the center).  Non-uniform current flow into the bus bar will increase the difficulty of achieving low resistance connections between the cells.

Another issue with the very thick metal grid lines on the illuminated side of the CPV cells is that with the cell’s close proximity to the blackbody radiator the thick metal lines may shadow a significant portion of the illumination coming from the blackbody radiator.  This issue can be resolved by making the sides of the metal lines highly reflective and maintaining that reflectivity through the life of the CPV cell.

The geodesic dome layout for the CPV array is probably the best way to form a nearly spherical structure out of similar geometric shapes (triangles) that can be connected at adjacent edges to form a series connected array of cells.  However, forming a geodesic dome array with series connected CPV cells requires the fabrication of 4 different cells, 1 A cell and 3 B cells.  The A cell has all sides the same length so the only A cell design is required to have a bus bar along just one side of the cell.  However 3 layouts are needed for the B cells.  One layout has a bus bar connection on the “a” side; one layout has a bus bar connection on the “b” side to the right of the “a” side; and the final layout has a bus bar connection on the “b” side to the left of the “a” side.

Other modifications to the design of the existing concentrator solar cell to optimize it for use in the SunCell system include: 1) optimize semiconductor thicknesses for operation in 3000-3500ºK blackbody radiation spectrum rather than the solar spectrum, 2) modify semiconductor layers as necessary to increase operating current densities by a minimum of 30%, and 3) scale up the size of the bus bar to accommodate a very low resistance connection to the adjacent cell.  It should be a simple engineering modeling problem to make the adjustments to optimize the layers in triple junction cell for 3000-3500ºK blackbody radiation.  Since the original Masimo concentrator solar cell was no doubt designed for operation at the maximum possible solar concentration (current density) and minimum internal series resistanc, it is really hard to see how additional optimization can increase the current density by at least 30%.  The plan the increase the blackbody radiator to 3500ºK and operate the CPV cells at a 130% higher current density than the existing Masimo concentrator solar cells may be a much harder task than is anticipated.  The width of the bus bar on the CPV cells should be determined experimentally by the resistance requirements for the connections between the cells.  (See the next section.)

Other Issues in Building the CPV Cell Array

Electrical Connections between the Cells

Probably the next biggest issue for the CPV cell array design, after designing the actual cells, is how to make reliable and very low resistance electrical connections between the cells.  If each cell has an output voltage of about 3.0 volts and the cells are series connected, the array of cells has to operate with an output voltage of 180V and a current of 556A to produce 100KW of power.  Assuming a loss of 1% of the system operating voltage is tolerable in connecting series resistance drops, the maximum resistance allowable per cell connection is .01 * 180V / 556A / 60 connections = 54 micro-ohms per connection.  Achieving a low resistance connection is further complicated by the non-uniform current flow into the front side bus bar.

Another issue with the cell to cell connections is how to connect the bus bar of metal grid on the illuminated side of the cell to the backside metallization of the adjacent cell.  Space for the connection between the cells will have to be built into the design of the cell.  Another issue with connections between the cells is that the metal used to connect the cells will be exposed to the illumination and may absorb a significant amount of heat from the blackbody radiator.  This in turn will cause thermal expansion or the metal potentially putting a significant stress on the electrical connections and the CPV cells.  A thermal analysis should be done to determine the expected temperature rise in the electrical connection.  If possible the design of the electrical connection should accommodate some thermal expansion of the connecting metal without stressing the CPV cells.

One final issue with the electrical connection is that edge of the cell having the backside contact can not be directly connected to the heat sink.  The active cell under this contact will get hotter than the portion of the cell connected directly to the heat sink.  A thermal analysis should be done to verify the non-heat-sinked edge of the cell only gets a few degrees hotter than the heat-sinked portion of the cell.  A significant heat rise in this portion of the cell could lead to an early degradation of the cell’s output power.

Available Power  Calculation

In the 12-6-2016 video the available light output power from the 6 inch diameter sphere at a temperature of 3000ºK was given as 330KW.  Indeed, the calculation for the, emitted radiation of a 6 inch diameter spherical black body radiator having an emissivity of 0.99 is 331KW.  However, the radiator used in the SunCell is not a full sphere, but rather more like a ¾ sphere.  Also, it might be more reasonable to assume an emissivity value of some what less than 0.99, perhaps 0.95.  The actual available light power would be about 238KW at 3000ºK and about 442KW at 3500ºK assuming the blackbody radiator is a ¾ sphere with a .95 emissivity.  If a CPV array could be built with an efficiency of 0.40, the maximum available output power from the system would be about 100KW at 3000ºK and about 175KW at 3500ºK.

Nonuniformity of Light Output Due to Flange on the Graphite Black Body

The actual blackbody radiator is not a sphere, but rather ¾ of a sphere with a large flange connecting the top hemisphere to the bottom base.  Assuming that the cells in the geodesic array are connected in series to maximize the output voltage, each cell needs to see the same illumination intensity to equalize the current flowing through each cell.  However cells near the flange (40 of the 60 array cells) will see a different intensity than the top 20 cells which should see fairly uniform light from the spherical region of the black body radiator.  It is expected that the flange will be cooler than top portion of the black body sphere and therefore emit less light.  However, the cells near the flange will be much closer to flange surface (~1.3”) than the top cells are from the spherical surface (~2.3”) and therefore could potentially see a much higher light intensity even if the flange is a little cooler.  Cells near the flange potentially could have a large non-uniformity of light intensity over the cell area, which could severely degrade the cell performance.  If the light intensity varies too much within cells that are near the flange to achieve a reasonable cell performance, the black body radiator will have to be redesigned to eliminate the effect of the flange.  This issue can be evaluated before the CPV cells are added to the system just by measuring the light intensity at the positions where the cells will be located in the final design.  It would be desirable to have the light uniformity to be within 10% over the entire CPV cell array, including the cells near the flange.  (Note that because of the way the triangular cells are laid out, some cells will only have a tip of the cell near the flange, while the adjacent cell will have a large area near the flange.)  The primary concern with localized regions of high illumination intensity is shortening the life of the CPV cell.

Loss of Usable Power in A Cells

The geodesic dome is assumed to consist of 15 A cells and 45 B cells with the A cells being about 20% larger than the B cells.  Assuming the CPV array is wired with all cells connected in series (and all connections are between adjacent cells), the same current must flow through all cells.  This means that the 15 A cells will not be operating at their maximum output efficiency.  Their 20% lower output current will be partially offset by an increase of about 8% in the A cell output voltage, resulting in their power output being about 12% less than their maximum output.  The overall loss in system efficiency will be about 3%.

Cooling the CPV Cell Array

According to the 12-6-2016 video presentation, the CPV cells are to be water cooled by a system radiator that pumps 40ºC water to the cells and receives water at 80ºC back from the cells.  If it is assumed that the array is outputting 100KW at 40% efficiency, then the cooling system needs to dissipate 150KW.  If my calculations are correct, a water flow of 14.2gal/min (or .24gal/min to each cell) will be needed to remove 150KW from the CPV cell array with a 40ºC rise in the water temperature.  It would seem to be favorable to have all cells operating at the temperature, but this would require each cell to be supplied with its own cooling line from the radiator outlet manifold and then another outlet line from each cell back to the radiator input.  It will be interesting to see if some of the cooling lines to the CPV cells are series connected to reduce cooling plumbing at the expense of not maintaining all cells at the same temperature.

Another issue with the CPV cell cooling is that the cooling system needs to be able to handle the full 250KW output from the blackbody radiator for a short time in case the load is accidently removed from the CPV cell array output.  Hopefully, the SunCell will be designed with sensors that will shut down the system if the load is lost.  Also, the system needs to be designed to shut down immediately if the cooling water system fails.  It would be desirable to detect a cooling water failure quickly enough that the CPV cell array would not be damaged from overheating.

One additional comment on the water cooling system is that it might have to provide 25-50% more cooling than required just by the CPV cell array.  A lot of wasted heat will have to be dissipated from the lower portion of the blackbody radiator.  Other portions of the system also may need some active cooling.  One concern is that size of the radiator in the current SunCell design may be too small to dissipate the >150KW of excess heat for an electrical output of 100KW.

Improving the SunCell Efficiency By Reflecting the IR Spectrum Back to the Blackbody

The 12-6-2016 video states that the system efficiency can be improved by reflecting the IR portion of the spectrum back to the blackbody radiator.  While this is a true statement, the efficiency of the CPV cells will not be improved and the power output of the SunCell will not be increased by reflecting the IR spectrum back to the blackbody since the maximum allowable current density in the CPV cells will be the limiting factor in the available output power.  The real benefit of reflecting the IR spectrum back to the blackbody radiator will be a small reduction in the cooling requirements for the CPV cells.

Brilliant Light Power’s CPV Cell Development Plan and Target Output Power Goals

Brilliant Light Power seems to have a reasonable CPV cell development plan of first starting with single junction CPV cells and eventually moving to high efficiency triple junction CPV cells.  My assumption is that BLP will work with Masimo to develop the much thicker metallization required for large area CPV triangular cells on the lower cost single junction cells.  These same low cost single junction CPV cells can be used to develop the technology required make the connections between the cells.  It makes a lot of sense to finalize the development of thick CPV cell grid metal (and thick backside metal) and the development of the electrical connection technology on lower cost cells before applying that technology to the more expensive triple junction CPV cells.  It is not clear what benefit is derived by having an interim step of using double junction CPV cells between the initial phase of single junction CPV cells and the pilot phase that uses the triple junction CPV cells.

As discussed earlier the ¾ sphere blackbody radiator used in the SunCell will have a maximum light output of only about ¾ of what was claimed in the 12-6-2016 video presentation, and therefore the maximum electrical output for 0.40 efficiency CPV cells is really only about 100KW for a blackbody radiator temperature of 3000ºK and about 175KW for a blackbody radiator temperature of 3500ºK.  Even to output 100KW the new CPV cells must be designed to run at a 31% higher current density than Masimo’s existing concentrator solar cell (and a130% higher current density to output 175KW).  It’s not certain that the initial triple junction CPV cell can be designed to operate reliably with even a 31% increase in the allowable current density.  If the CPV cells can only operate reliably at the maximum rated current density as Masimo’s concentrator solar cell, the SunCell would have a maximum output power of no more than 76KW and the blackbody operating temperature would have to be lowered to about 2840ºK.

Reliability Issues

The primary reliability concerns with the CPV cell array are degradation of the cells over time (including catastrophic failure of the cells) and degradation of the electrical connections between the cells.  It would probably be a good idea to verify the reliability of the existing Masimo concentrator solar cells by operating them at their maximum rated current density, or perhaps even force failures by operating them at about 30% above their maximum rated current to determine the failure mechanisms for stressed operation.  Even if Masimo concentrator solar cells are very reliable, it’s possible that changes are made to some of the semiconductor layers in the CPV cell in an attempt to increase to maximum operational current density will introduce some new reliability issues.  The electrical connections are a potential reliability issue because of the high current flowing between cells.  It would be good to use a technology for making connections to the cell bus bar that has already been proven reliable for high currents.

Another issue with the SunCell’s CPV array is that localized areas on individual cells may be subjected to illumination intensities above the spec limit of the cells.   The final design of the CPV cells should be checked to verify that localized high intensities will not cause rapid degradation of the entire cell.

One probable method of operating of the SunCell system is to adjust blackbody temperature to maintain consistent output power.  If the output power decreases due to CPV cell array degrading or the connecting resistance increasing, the operating method of increasing the blackbody temperature to maintain output power may just increase the rate at which the CPV cells or the electrical connections degrade.  An independent method of monitoring the CPV array is needed.

Conclusions

      It is going to be quite an engineering challenge for Brilliant Light Power’s SunCell to achieve a “pilot” goal of an output of 100KW with the blackbody radiator operating at a temperature of 3000ºK due to the difficulty of developing a thick metal technology and increasing the allowable CPV cell current density (by about 30%).  If higher current density cells can not be developed, it still should be possible to achieve an output power of about 76KW, assuming that the existing Masimo concentrator solar cells are reliable at their maximum rated concentration (1200X).  However, even operating the SunCell system at 76KW will require the successful development of a thick metal technology.  It might be desirable to initially target an output power of about 50KW until reliability can be demonstrated a higher power levels.  There are numerous other engineering challenges for the development of a reliable SunCell CPV cell array including developing a method to achieve low resistance cell to cell connections, verifying the blackbody illumination intensity is uniform, developing a cooling system for the CPV cells and other hardware, verifying system reliability, and the other issues noted in this post.  It will be interesting to follow the engineering solutions to these challenges.

  • barkbque

    So my question about BrLP is why go through the trouble of using solar cells? Why not treat it like a nuclear reactor and use the heat generated to produce high quality steam to drive turbines? Would a pressure steam vessel not be easier to manufacture and capture energy that way? My understanding of this is basic, so please tell me why this way is better. Just seems like if you are spitting out that much energy as heat, why not use it to make steam/drive turbines?

    • Dr. Mike

      barkbque,
      The CPV cells will permit BLP to have a portable power source. I think that there are many future applications where the energy output by the blackbody radiator will produce steam rather than electricity using CPV cells. I think that boilers powered by arrays of SunCells (without the CPV cell array) could replace every coal/gas/oil fired power plant in the world.
      Dr. Mike

      • David Taylor-Fuller

        I disagree. that they can do that. remember the underlying power source driving the black body radiator is pulsed. So for that proposal to be true. The rate at which energy is being generated needs to very high.

        If they could actually maintain the temperature of the dome while it is in contstant contact with water. I would argue a much better solution would probably be to use it to disassociate water and feed the H2 and O to a fuel cell stack

        • Dr. Mike

          David,
          The SunCell is no longer pulsed- the ignition system is not needed once the system temperature reaches about 3000K- see Min 64 ot the presentation. The heat generation rate is very high- enough to maintain a 6″ diameter blackbody radiator at 3000K! If I were designing a system to produce steam with the existing SunCell structure, I would put a reflector around the graphite blackbody sphere directing all of the energy vertically out of the bell jar like dome enclosing the existing design. Just outside of the bell jar would be a blackbody receptor that is in contact with the water/steam. An array of such SunCell’s should be able to deliver sufficient energy to drive power plant sized generators.
          Dr. Mike

  • barkbque

    So my question about BrLP is why go through the trouble of using solar cells? Why not treat it like a nuclear reactor and use the heat generated to produce high quality steam to drive turbines? Would a pressure steam vessel not be easier to manufacture and capture energy that way? My understanding of this is basic, so please tell me why this way is better. Just seems like if you are spitting out that much energy as heat, why not use it to make steam/drive turbines?

    • Dr. Mike

      barkbque,
      The CPV cells will permit BLP to have a portable power source. I think that there are many future applications where the energy output by the blackbody radiator will produce steam rather than electricity using CPV cells. I think that boilers powered by arrays of SunCells (without the CPV cell array) could replace every coal/gas/oil fired power plant in the world.
      Dr. Mike

      • Bob

        Unfortunately, I am afraid this is a “wag the dog” scenario.
        .
        “We must delay production yet again, because the CPV cells are not quite ready….”.
        .
        This is like early airplane builders stating “we must delay building and selling airplanes because we do not have jet engines available yet!”.
        .
        As mentioned above, if the reactor core is stable, then start selling heat producing units. There is a vast market for these! The CPV version could still be developed in parallel.
        .
        However, this probably will not happen… why not? This is the pattern that BLP has followed for many, many years…. longer than Rossi even!
        .
        The answer is too obvious! 🙁

        • Dr. Mike

          Bob,
          See tip’s link above. I think Masimo will very soon be able to deliver a CPV array to BLP that is able to deliver 10-15KW from the SunCell. It will then be time to verify the reliability of the rest of the SunCell system. Right now I see BLP demonstrating a prototype system well before Rossi demonstrates a prototype system using his QuarkX reactor.
          Dr. Mike

          • Bob

            I hope so! I truly would like to see the QuarkX be real, but have no confidence what so ever that it is. Much less that we will ever see a working prototype that is properly vetted.
            .
            I do not have much more confidence in BLP. This has been a recurring scenario with them. About every 18 months, production will be in 6 months using “off the shelf parts”, yet never happens. I understand the problems in development. But BLP has been at it for 20 years and nothing has been maintained. As with Rossi, always “on to the next, new design” when the time arrives for the previous “production date to start”.
            .
            I am putting more of my “hope” in Brilliouin. They have a very reputable 3rd party (SRI) that is at least publicly acknowledging that :
            1: They are a real company
            2: They have real prototypes that they allow testing on
            3: The prototypes show positive progress and results
            While BLP seems more legit than Rossi, their past history does not give me much hope. People need to remember this….. last December 2016 they were a couple of months away showing a working product. In December 2015 they were a couple of months away from showing a working product. Will we be watching this same scenario in December 2017? It is hard to swallow when the record for the past decade has been zero.
            “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!”
            (You being the Rossi’s or BLP’s of the world)
            I will not buy into unsubstantiated claims anymore without some legitimate confirmation! Right now, that seems to be the following:
            MFMP
            Brilliouin
            Univ. of Missouri
            Texax Univ.
            Time will tell!

          • Dr. Mike

            Bob,
            I would have to agree. However, we can hope that Rossi’s QuarkX reactor will eventually lead to a commercial product and this will be the year that BPL finally demonstrates a prototype. One thing that I think might make this year different for BPL is that they discovered (probably by accident) that the SunCell only needs an ignition system to get the system started. This should simplify the operation of the system.
            Dr. Mike.

          • David Taylor-Fuller

            I cant believe I am going to say this. But in BLP’s case their actions are way more justified than Rossi’s. I have not been following Randall’s past 20 years of promises. But my take from a few years ago till now is they have mostly delivered what I expected them to, given what they demo’d. Everyone knew that the system they demo’d a few years ago trying with the rollers wouldnt work. Primarily because it would foul up either the solar cells or the mirrors that were supposed to redirect the light to the cells. So their next demo after that abandoned that design and adopted the current energy harvesting design. He hasnt changed the underlying energy generation mechanism just the harvesting part. To me if they demo a prototype with less output power than they promised that falls in line with Dr. Mike’s predictions I would consider them right on track.

      • David Taylor-Fuller

        I disagree. that they can do that. remember the underlying power source driving the black body radiator is pulsed. So for that proposal to be true. The rate at which energy is being generated needs to very high.

        If they could actually maintain the temperature of the dome while it is in contstant contact with water. I would argue a much better solution would probably be to use it to disassociate water and feed the H2 and O to a fuel cell stack

        • Dr. Mike

          David,
          The SunCell is no longer pulsed- the ignition system is not needed once the system temperature reaches about 3000K- see Min 64 ot the presentation. The heat generation rate is very high- enough to maintain a 6″ diameter blackbody radiator at 3000K! If I were designing a system to produce steam with the existing SunCell structure, I would put a reflector around the graphite blackbody sphere directing all of the energy vertically out of the bell jar like dome enclosing the existing design. Just outside of the bell jar would be a blackbody receptor that is in contact with the water/steam. An array of such SunCell’s should be able to deliver sufficient energy to drive power plant sized generators.
          Dr. Mike

          • David Taylor-Fuller

            I remember that part of the presentation. I just interpreted what they said to refer to the dome they added over the reaction. I had always understood the primary use case for the dome to function as not only a down shift on the light frequency but also, as a battery to smooth out energy generation.

            But if what you say is correct and turning on the SunCell energy generation mechanism. Results in a continuous generation of energy from the reaction. Then why the hell are we even talking about steam generators. We should be doing a closed loop water disassociation fed to fuel cells. the efficiency would be WAY WAY higher than what you get out of steam turbines.

  • Leonard Weinstein

    I have previously stated that evaporation of the dome and coating of the PV cells is a major problem for very long term operation. The claim that this is not a problem is going to bite the effort. I proposed a solution, but have calculate that even 3,000 K is close to being a real limit, and 3,500 K is a non-starter for even modest length operation. The inclusion of a passive gas (argon?) between the dome and PV does help, but not nearly enough for long term operation. I like the comment by barkbque about steam output, and have even other uses for higher temperature steam output (thermal in-space propulsion). The one problem with steam at modest power levels is that small steam turbine generators are low efficiency (10-12% or so at 1MW). By 10 MW, it should be possible to approach 15-20%. There is a lot of potential in this concept, but I am skeptical of the present claims.

    • Dr. Mike

      Leonard,
      BLP stated in the 12/6/2016 video that the system would be pressurized to “about that of a bicycle tire”, but they didn’t say what gas would be used for pressurization. Coating of the CPV cells with carbon from the blackbody radiator would be disastrous.
      Dr. Mike

      • tlp

        They have said many times, that the gas is argon, with about 3% of hydrogen which is the fuel.

        • Dr. Mike

          tip,
          Thanks for the info.
          Dr. Mike

      • Leonard Weinstein

        I had previously mentioned that an fused silica shell between the dome and PV, with a Halogen gas (like a Halogen light bulb) would eliminate this problem. The shell needs to be located where it reaches a temperature suitable for this reaction. If Carbon is not suitable for this reaction, a thin Tungsten coat or layer on the Carbon dome would work if the thermal expansion differences can be managed. There would be a drop in emission coefficent with Tungsten, so Carbon (Graphite) is preferred, but a reaction that cleans up the Carbon coat is required. Alternately, a flowing gas between the dome and PV shell could continually purge the Carbon vapor, but lose some energy from heating the gas. This flowing gas could go into a heat exchanger to condense the Carbon vapor, and be recycled.

        • Dr. Mike

          Leonard,
          Would graphite sublimation be a problem at 3000K with the an atmosphere of 97% Ar/ 3% H at about 50psi? What would you estimate the maximum temperature the graphite could be in this atmosphere without any appreciable graphite sublimation?
          Dr. Mike

          • Leonard Weinstein

            The H2 with the Argon is needed for the Hydrino reaction, but is not useful for the space between the dome and PV. I assume the H2 on the outside of the dome is only present due to the common connection to the interior.

            While Graphite (and other forms of Carbon except diamond) all have much higher melting temperature than even Tungsten, they have a far higher vapor pressure at a much lower temperature. I don’t have the curves in front of me, but I looked at this for another use in the past. Tungsten is far better wrt vapor pressure in those higher temperatures by one to two orders of magnitude. I concluded that the maximum acceptable temperature for Carbon (graphite) depended on the length of time acceptable before the vapor coat became a problem. The use of a high pressure Argon atmosphere slowed the effect considerably, but does not stop it. For my application, which needed thousands of hours of operation, a max temperature of <2,200 K was the useful limit, but that was in a vacuum environment.

            I have to confess that I do not know how much the presence of the Argon gas would reduce the coating speed, but in light bulbs with gas interiors, the extension in operating time is greatly limited compared to Halogen cycle process. When you consider a time of several years, only a little higher than this would still be true. For much shorter times (say months), 2,800 K might be usable, and for days 3,000K, but for years, <2,800 K for sure. However, if the Halogen cycle is used for cleanup, 20 years should be possible with over 3,000 K. Even 3,500 K might be usable with Halogen cleanup.

          • Dr. Mike

            Leonard,
            Thanks for sharing this information on graphite sublimation. I assume that BLP will be able to demonstrate the prototype SunCell with a graphite blackbody radiator, but may need to consider another material when the temperature is increased to 3500K. The issue of the light uniformity near the large flange on the graphite blackbody radiator may require a re-design of this part of the system anyway.
            Dr. Mike.

  • Leonard Weinstein

    I have previously stated that evaporation of the dome and coating of the PV cells is a major problem for very long term operation. The claim that this is not a problem is going to bite the effort. I proposed a solution, but have calculate that even 3,000 K is close to being a real limit, and 3,500 K is a non-starter for even modest length operation. The inclusion of a passive gas (argon?) between the dome and PV does help, but not nearly enough for long term operation. I like the comment by barkbque about steam output, and have even other uses for higher temperature steam output (thermal in-space propulsion). The one problem with steam at modest power levels is that small steam turbine generators are low efficiency (10-12% or so at 1MW). By 10 MW, it should be possible to approach 15-20%. There is a lot of potential in this concept, but I am skeptical of the present claims.

    • Dr. Mike

      Leonard,
      BLP stated in the 12/6/2016 video that the system would be pressurized to “about that of a bicycle tire”, but they didn’t say what gas would be used for pressurization. Coating of the CPV cells with carbon from the blackbody radiator would be disastrous.
      Dr. Mike

      • tlp

        They have said many times, that the gas is argon, with about 3% of hydrogen which is the fuel.

        • Dr. Mike

          tip,
          Thanks for the info.
          Dr. Mike

      • Leonard Weinstein

        I had previously mentioned that an fused silica shell between the dome and PV, with a Halogen gas (like a Halogen light bulb) would eliminate this problem. The shell needs to be located where it reaches a temperature suitable for this reaction. If Carbon is not suitable for this reaction, a thin Tungsten coat or layer on the Carbon dome would work if the thermal expansion differences can be managed. There would be a drop in emission coefficent with Tungsten, so Carbon (Graphite) is preferred, but a reaction that cleans up the Carbon coat is required. Alternately, a flowing gas between the dome and PV shell could continually purge the Carbon vapor, but lose some energy from heating the gas. This flowing gas could go into a heat exchanger to condense the Carbon vapor, and be recycled.

        • Dr. Mike

          Leonard,
          Would graphite sublimation be a problem at 3000K with the an atmosphere of 97% Ar/ 3% H at about 50psi? What would you estimate the maximum temperature the graphite could be in this atmosphere without any appreciable graphite sublimation?
          Dr. Mike

          • Leonard Weinstein

            The H2 with the Argon is needed for the Hydrino reaction, but is not useful for the space between the dome and PV. I assume the H2 on the outside of the dome is only present due to the common connection to the interior.

            While Graphite (and other forms of Carbon except diamond) all have much higher melting temperature than even Tungsten, they have a far higher vapor pressure at a much lower temperature. I don’t have the curves in front of me, but I looked at this for another use in the past. Tungsten is far better wrt vapor pressure in those higher temperatures by one to two orders of magnitude. I concluded that the maximum acceptable temperature for Carbon (graphite) depended on the length of time acceptable before the vapor coat became a problem. The use of a high pressure Argon atmosphere slowed the effect considerably, but does not stop it. For my application, which needed thousands of hours of operation, a max temperature of <2,200 K was the useful limit, but that was in a vacuum environment.

            I have to confess that I do not know how much the presence of the Argon gas would reduce the coating speed, but in light bulbs with gas interiors, the extension in operating time is greatly limited compared to Halogen cycle process. When you consider a time of several years, only a little higher than this would still be true. For much shorter times (say months), 2,800 K might be usable, and for days 3,000K, but for years, <2,800 K for sure. However, if the Halogen cycle is used for cleanup, 20 years should be possible with over 3,000 K. Even 3,500 K might be usable with Halogen cleanup.

          • Dr. Mike

            Leonard,
            Thanks for sharing this information on graphite sublimation. I assume that BLP will be able to demonstrate the prototype SunCell with a graphite blackbody radiator, but may need to consider another material when the temperature is increased to 3500K. The issue of the light uniformity near the large flange on the graphite blackbody radiator may require a re-design of this part of the system anyway.
            Dr. Mike.

  • Axil Axil

    Regarding: “Min 41-44: A peak pulse power of 5MW can be achieved with the average pulse power being 1MW with a pulse width of about 1msec. 1000 pulses per sec are needed to achieve 1MW output power.”

    To the best of my knowledge, this is old design that self sustain mode has made obsolete. The SunCell does not pulse anymore, it run continuously is SSM with no power input.

    • Dr. Mike

      Axil Axil,
      In Min 67 of the presentation, it was stated that the ignition was not needed once the system reached about 3000K. I don’t know why this wasn’t stated immediately after what was said in Min 41-44 of the presentation.
      Dr. Mike

  • Axil Axil

    Regarding: “Min 41-44: A peak pulse power of 5MW can be achieved with the average pulse power being 1MW with a pulse width of about 1msec. 1000 pulses per sec are needed to achieve 1MW output power.”

    To the best of my knowledge, this is old design that self sustain mode has made obsolete. The SunCell does not pulse anymore, it run continuously is SSM with no power input.

    • Dr. Mike

      Axil Axil,
      In Min 67 of the presentation, it was stated that the ignition was not needed once the system reached about 3000K. I don’t know why this wasn’t stated immediately after what was said in Min 41-44 of the presentation.
      Dr. Mike

  • tlp

    This is the most detailed presentation of those triangle CPV panels by Masimo:
    http://www.brilliantlightpower.com/wp-content/uploads/presentations/Masimo-BrLPIndustryDay-102616.pdf
    from the Industry Day. It looks like those basic assumptions in this article are way off, not at all like in this Masimo presentation.

    • Dr. Mike

      tip,
      Thanks for this link to the Masimo presentation on their CPV cells. It appears that Masimo’s solution to the problem with high currents in large area cells is to build triangular arrays of lots of very small series connected rectangular cells which does mean the assumptions in the article are not correct.. This would shift the main concern with production of the CPV array to reliably in producing the triangular modules. There also would be some additional development work to incorporate the triple junction cells into the existing module as the triple junction cell requires a backside contact whereas the the single junction device has a contact to the back side of the device on the front side of the cell.
      Dr. Mike

  • tlp

    This is the most detailed presentation of those triangle CPV panels by Masimo:
    http://www.brilliantlightpower.com/wp-content/uploads/presentations/Masimo-BrLPIndustryDay-102616.pdf
    from the Industry Day. It looks like those basic assumptions in this article are way off, not at all like in this Masimo presentation.

    • Dr. Mike

      tip,
      Thanks for this link to the Masimo presentation on their CPV cells. It appears that Masimo’s solution to the problem with high currents in large area cells is to build triangular arrays of lots of very small series connected rectangular cells which does mean the assumptions in the article are not correct.. This would shift the main concern with production of the CPV array to reliably in producing the triangular modules. There also would be some additional development work to incorporate the triple junction cells into the existing module as the triple junction cell requires a backside contact whereas the the single junction device has a contact to the back side of the device on the front side of the cell.
      Dr. Mike

  • Gerard McEk

    I would first prove that the SunCell works reliably over a long period and that it produces a significant amount excess energy during that time (heat). I would gather that there is a huge market for just heat, so why don’t they do that first and earn some money for their investors instead of this very complex approach? That all delays the SunCell, so why insist on this PV route? I have very little trust that PV will ever work properly during an economical time period.

    • Gerard McEk

      BTW Dr. Mike, thank you for this detailed analysis. It shows that the feeling I had with it is correct. Apart of the problems you described, I assume that also evaporation of the very hot dome and the condensation of carbon particles on the cool PV cells may also be a problem.

      • Dr. Mike

        Gerald,
        See tip’s link below. This approach by Masimo seems to be a fairly straight forward method of fabricating a CPV array that will output power in the 10-20KW range needed for a prototype by having very small cells (.084cm2) cells operating at real high current densities (27A/cm2).
        I would assume that BLP is working hard on making sure the light generation portion of their SunCell is reliable. (This seems like quite a task!) I also assume that BLP will establish the highest temperature that they can run the graphite sphere without it evaporating onto the CPV cells. The Ar over pressure atmosphere may permit the graphite sphere to be operated up to BPL’s projected temperatures.
        Dr. Mike

  • Gerard McEk

    I would first prove that the SunCell works reliably over a long period and that it produces a significant amount excess energy during that time (heat). I would gather that there is a huge market for just heat, so why don’t they do that first and earn some money for their investors instead of this very complex approach? That all delays the SunCell, so why insist on this PV route? I have very little trust that PV will ever work properly during an economical time period.

    • Gerard McEk

      BTW Dr. Mike, thank you for this detailed analysis. It shows that the feeling I had with it is correct. Apart of the problems you described, I assume that also evaporation of the very hot dome and the condensation of carbon particles on the cool PV cells may also be a problem.

      • Dr. Mike

        Gerald,
        See tip’s link below. This approach by Masimo seems to be a fairly straight forward method of fabricating a CPV array that will output power in the 10-20KW range needed for a prototype by having very small cells (.084cm2) cells operating at real high current densities (27A/cm2).
        I would assume that BLP is working hard on making sure the light generation portion of their SunCell is reliable. (This seems like quite a task!) I also assume that BLP will establish the highest temperature that they can run the graphite sphere without it evaporating onto the CPV cells. The Ar over pressure atmosphere may permit the graphite sphere to be operated up to BPL’s projected temperatures.
        Dr. Mike

  • Peter Wolstenholme

    I think that the BLP products are supposed to be capable of supplying electricity at either 360 V or 720 V, which might imply two series chains, each able to produce power at 360 V., with series or parallel connection options. That would alter the calculations made by Michael Lambert.
    As for using heat for steam, I fully agree. A few months ago I sent a formal proposal to BLP in that line, and it was turned down. (I shall not give further details about that, as I consider them to be private.) I also made a study of the practicality of generating steam at almost 600 °C to retro-fit 500 MW coal-fired power generators in the U.K. In that study I envisaged molybdenum alloy heat exchangers driven by the SunCell core, at about 1400 °C, but I stress that I am not a boiler design expert.
    Big turbo-alternators are quite efficient. One should be careful to look into efficiency figures as these are often calculated on the basis of the maximum thermal energy which could be obtained from the fuel, and of course in a thermal power station some energy is sent up the chimney as the combustion products need to be evacuated. Given a plan which permitted factory assembly and test of groups of power cells, the project seemed able to generate obscene amounts of profit for all concerned.
    We shall see how things develop over the next few years.
    Peter W.

    • Dr. Mike

      Peter W.
      Thanks for the info on the proposed output voltage. A 2X or 4X output voltage would mean the cell current density and the system operating current can be decreased by the same 2X or 4X factor, however the number of cells would go up to 120 or 240. Building the geodesic array out of more cells operating at a lower current density seem to be a better engineering solution than trying to design CPV cells to operate at a higher current density. Thanks for sharing your input about the use of this technology for steam generation.
      Dr. Mike

    • Dr. Mike

      Christopher,
      I think that system complexity is not as big of an issue as system reliability and the system cost per unit of energy provided. While the reliability of both a hot fusion reactor and a reactor using the SunCell technology are total unknowns at this time, my guess is that the system cost per unit of energy provided would be much less for the SunCell technology.

      Dr. Mike

  • Dr. Mike

    Peter W.
    Thanks for the info on the proposed output voltage. A 2X or 4X output voltage would mean the cell current density and the system operating current can be decreased by the same 2X or 4X factor, however the number of cells would go up to 120 or 240. Building the geodesic array out of more cells operating at a lower current density seem to be a better engineering solution than trying to design CPV cells to operate at a higher current density. Thanks for sharing your input about the use of this technology for steam generation.
    Dr. Mike

  • Dr. Mike

    Bob,
    See tip’s link above. I think Masimo will very soon be able to deliver a CPV array to BLP that is able to deliver 10-15KW from the SunCell. It will then be time to verify the reliability of the rest of the SunCell system. Right now I see BLP demonstrating a prototype system well before Rossi demonstrates a prototype system using his QuarkX reactor.
    Dr. Mike

  • Dr. Mike

    Bob,
    I would have to agree. However, we can hope that Rossi’s QuarkX reactor will eventually lead to a commercial product and this will be the year that BPL finally demonstrates a prototype. One thing that I think might make this year different for BPL is that they discovered (probably by accident) that the SunCell only needs an ignition system to get the system started. This should simplify the operation of the system.
    Dr. Mike.

  • Dr. Mike

    Christopher,
    I think that system complexity is not as big of an issue as system reliability and the system cost per unit of energy provided. While the reliability of both a hot fusion reactor and a reactor using the SunCell technology are total unknowns at this time, my guess is that the system cost per unit of energy provided would be much less for the SunCell technology.

    Dr. Mike

  • David Taylor-Fuller

    I cant believe I am going to say this. But in BLP’s case their actions are way more justified than Rossi’s. I have not been following Randall’s past 20 years of promises. But my take from a few years ago till now is they have mostly delivered what I expected them to, given what they demo’d. Everyone knew that the system they demo’d a few years ago trying with the rollers wouldnt work. Primarily because it would foul up either the solar cells or the mirrors that were supposed to redirect the light to the cells. So their next demo after that abandoned that design and adopted the current energy harvesting design. He hasnt changed the underlying energy generation mechanism just the harvesting part. To me if they demo a prototype with less output power than they promised that falls in line with Dr. Mike’s predictions I would consider them right on track.

  • roseland67
  • piper

    Have previously seen SoCP forum banter suggesting 10 atm for 3000 K and 42 atm for 3500 K within the outer containment, countering internal pressure within the carbon sphere.

  • piper

    A CO2 working fluid based turbine system seems poised to displace the steam power generation cycle. High efficiency at small scale is achieved with the working fluid density approaching one-half that of liquid water. The Allam Cycle internal combustion embodiment appears most near to field testing.