Otanicar teams up with Australian Solar Initiative

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Funding awarded to create rooftop solar thermal collectors for domestic and industrial processes

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Todd Otanicar and an international team of researchers have been awarded 4.5 million AUD from the Australian Solar Initiative to create rooftop solar thermal collectors for domestic and industrial processes.

The team’s proposal, “MUSIC:Micro Urban Solar Integrated Concentrators,” features a plan to develop a new set of solar thermal collectors capable of providing medium temperature thermal energy while resembling conventional photovoltaic modules. Otanicar’s role in the project will involve development of nanoparticles suitable for absorption of thermal energy within the system.

The proposal focuses on creating rooftop solar thermal collectors capable of providing heat ranging from 100 to 400 degrees Celsius. According to Otanicar, a focusing element, or concentrator, currently is required to achieve these temperatures, but increases the size, complexity and cost.

“These factors result in a less than desirable system,” he says. “We plan to make a new type of collector with advanced packaging and optics that can achieve these same temperatures. The collector’s system will have a similar profile and require simple installation to that of photovoltaic cells.”

Researchers will use novel materials, optical design and fluids to efficiently operate the collectors within the temperature range. The team will investigate ways to store the thermal energy effectively, so that the supplied energy from the collectors can be utilized at times of peak demand.

The international team, led by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, includes members from Arizona State University, Australian National University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Fielders, the University of New South Wales, Rheem and TU.

Todd Otanicar