SunDrum uses PC Technology to Make Solar Systems More Powerful


Massachusetts-based startup SunDrum is working on a liquid-filled heat sink that boosts the power output of photovoltaic panels (PV) and heats water–all with the help of a solar collector that’s similar to something you would see in a high-end PC. It’s not surprising that the technology comes from a company headed up by Ron Smith, a former Intel executive.

SunDrum, which is currently seeking funds to manufacture its product, has created a heat sink (a piece of metal that carries heat) that absorbs heat built up on PV panels and transfers it to a water heater in a basement or utility room. Heat sinks are often found in PCs and LED lights to cool processors, but solar heat sinks do more than just cool solar panels–they also increase power output by 6 to 7%. And by using excess heat for hot water, SunDrum’s ink captures 57% of the sun’s energy, compared to 18% for a PV-only system.

The heat sink is made up of two sheets of aluminum with ports for a mixture of distilled water and propylene glycol. The fluids travel through canals–gathering heat under PV panels as they go– and touch the aluminum directly. The fluid then moves to tank where the heat can be used for hot water.

Since SunDrum wants to sell its system to solar manufacturers and dealer networks, it won’t have to compete against PV makers. In fact, the company has already certified compatibility with solar panels from Sanyo, Sharp, SunPower, and more. But SunDrum isn’t the only start-up working on ways to increase the power-gathering abilities of PV panels. Chromasun has invented a device that combines solar cells with a solar thermal collector to power an air-conditioner, and Brightphase Energy’s combination solar PV and thermal device lets in light through a skylight.

[Via Greentech Media]