Localized Solar Collectors

Technology #16537

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Professor Gang Chen
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
External Link (web.mit.edu)
Hadi Ghasemi
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
Amy Marie Marconnet
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
Managed By
Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Localized Solar Collectors

US Patent 9,459,024
Steam from the sun
MIT News, July 21, 2014
Solar steam generation by heat localization
Nature Communications , July 21, 2014


Harvesting solar energy for heating/phase change of water.

Problem Addressed

Localization of solar energy is a promising approach for harvesting solar energy for the heating/phase change of water. However, one of the biggest challenges for further development of this approach is low efficiency of localization. This invention relates to three novel structures that increase efficiency of localization of solar energy.


This invention relates to the development of three novel structures to harvest solar energy for heating/phase change of water. These structures concentrate the solar energy where it is needed and consequently minimize the dissipated thermal energy.

One of these structures is the double layer structure (DLS), which consists of an insulating carbon foam supporting a layer of expanded graphite. The insulating nature of DLS provide a hot spot inside the structure and the hydrophilic nature of the DLS promotes water flow through the capillaries into the hot spot for evaporation.

The second set of structures localizes the solar energy internally for solar heating. This structure consists of a layer of expanded graphite sandwiched between two layers of silica aerogel. The hot region induced in the expanded graphite layer is intended for solar heating. The low surface temperature of the top silica aerogel layer minimizes the energy dissipation by convection and radiation. The thermal efficiency of this system can reach close to 100% by proper design of aerogel layers.

The third set of structures, a hydrophobic absorbing structure, promotes the nucleation of the vapor phase throughout the liquid volume, which significantly enhances the rate of boiling. The threshold concentration of solar energy required for local phase-change is reduced drastically.

This technology is related to 16363-16542 Internally-Heated and Externally-Cooled Photovoltaic Cascade Solar System for the Full Solar Spectrum Utilization.


  • Increased localization efficiency of heat capture