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Microbial fuel cell

A microbial fuel cell (MFC) or biological fuel cell is a bio-electrochemical system that drives a current by mimicking bacterial interactions found in nature. Mediator-less MFCs are a more recent development; due to this, factors that affect optimum efficiency, such as the strain of bacteria used in the system, type of ion-exchange membrane, and system conditions (temperature, pH, etc.) are not particularly well understood. Bacteria in mediator-less MFCs typically have electrochemically active redox proteins such as cytochromes on their outer membrane that can transfer electrons to external materials.[1]

The idea of using microbial cells in an attempt to produce electricity was first conceived at the turn of the nineteenth century. M.C. Potter was the first to perform work on the subject in 1911.[2] A professor of botany at the University of Durham, Potter managed to generate electricity from E. coli, but the work was not to receive any major coverage. In 1931, however, Barnet Cohen drew more attention to the area when he created a number of microbial half fuel cells that, when connected in series, were capable of producing over 35 volts, though only with a current of 2 milliamps.[3] More work on the subject came with a study by DelDuca et al.[citation needed] who used hydrogen produced by the fermentation of glucose by Clostridium butyricum as the reactant at the anode of a hydrogen and air fuel cell. Though the cell functioned, it was found to be unreliable owing to the unstable nature of hydrogen production by the micro-organisms.[4] Although this issue was later resolved in work by Suzuki et al. in 1976[5] the current design concept of an MFC came into existence a year later with work once again by Suzuki.[6] By the time of Suzukis work in the late 1970s, little was understood about how microbial fuel cells functioned; however, the idea was picked up and studied later in more detail first by MJ Allen and then later by H. Peter Bennetto both from King's College London. Bennetto saw the fuel cell as a possible method for the generation of electricity for developing countries. His work, starting in the early 1980s, helped build an understanding of how fuel cells operate, and until his retirement, he was seen by many[who?] as the foremost authority on the subject. It is now known that electricity can be produced directly from the degradation of organic matter in a microbial fuel cell, although the exact mechanisms of the process are yet to be fully understood. Like a normal fuel cell, an MFC has both an anode and a cathode chamber. The anoxic anode chamber is connected internally to the cathode chamber via an ion exchange membrane with the circuit completed by an external wire. In May 2007, the University of Queensland, Australia, completed its prototype MFC, as a cooperative effort with Foster's Brewing. The prototype, (a 10L design), converts brewery wastewater into carbon dioxide, clean water, and electricity. With the prototype proven successful[citation needed], plans are in effect to produce a 660 gallon version for the brewery, which is estimated to produce 2 kilowatts of power. While it is a negligible amount of power, the production of clean water is of utmost importance to Australia, for which drought is a constant threat.

[edit] Types
[edit] Definition

A microbial fuel cell is a device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy by the catalytic reaction of microorganisms.[7] A typical microbial fuel cell consists of anode and cathode compartments separated by a cation (positively charged ion) specific membrane. In the anode compartment, fuel is oxidized by microorganisms, generating electrons and protons. Electrons are transferred to the cathode compartment through an external electric circuit, while protons are transferred to the cathode compartment through the membrane. Electrons and protons are consumed in the cathode compartment, combining with oxygen to form water.[citation needed] More broadly, there are two types of microbial fuel cell: mediator and mediator-less microbial fuel cells.
[edit] Mediator microbial fuel cell

Most of the microbial cells are electrochemically inactive. The electron transfer from microbial cells to the electrode is facilitated by mediators such as thionine, methyl viologen, methyl blue, humic acid, neutral red and so on.[8][9] Most of the mediators available are expensive and toxic.
[edit] Mediator-free microbial fuel cell

A plant microbial fuel cell (PMFC)

Mediator-free microbial fuel cells do not require a mediator but uses electrochemically active bacteria to transfer electrons to the electrode (electrons are carried directly from the bacterial respiratory enzyme to the electrode). Among the electrochemically active bacteria are, Shewanella putrefaciens,[10] Aeromonas hydrophila,[11] and others. Some bacteria, which have pili on their external membrane, are able to transfer their electron production via these pili. Mediator-less microbial fuel cells can, besides running on wastewater, also derive energy directly from certain aquatic plants. These include reed sweetgrass, cordgrass, rice, tomatoes,

lupines, and algae.[12] These microbial fuel cells are called Plant Microbial Fuel Cells (PlantMFC).[13] Given that the power is thus derived from a living plant (in situ-energy production), this variant can provide extra ecological advantages.
[edit] Microbial electrolysis cell Main article: Microbial electrolysis cell

A variation of the mediator-less MFC is the microbial electrolysis cells (MEC). Whilst MFC's produce electric current by the bacterial decomposition of organic compounds in water, MEC's partially reverse the process to generate hydrogen or methane by applying a voltage to bacteria to supplement the voltage generated by the microbial decomposition of organics sufficiently lead to the electrolysis of water or the production of methane.[14][15] A complete reversal of the MFC principle is found in microbial electrosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide is reduced by bacteria using an external electric current to form multi-carbon organic compounds.[16]
[edit] Soil-based microbial fuel cell

A soil-based MFC

Soil-based microbial fuel cells adhere to the same basic MFC principles as described above, whereby soil acts as the nutrient-rich anodic media, the inoculum, and the proton-exchange membrane (PEM). The anode is placed at a certain depth within the soil, while the cathode rests on top the soil and is exposed to the oxygen in the air above it. Soils are naturally teeming with a diverse consortium of microbes, including the electrogenic microbes needed for MFCs, and are full of complex sugars and other nutrients that have accumulated over millions of years of plant and animal material decay. Moreover, the aerobic (oxygen consuming) microbes present in the soil act as an oxygen filter, much like the expensive PEM materials used in laboratory MFC systems, which cause the redox potential of the soil to decrease with greater depth. Soil-based MFCs are becoming popular educational tools for science classrooms.[17]

[edit] Electrical generation process

When micro-organisms consume a substrate such as sugar in aerobic conditions they produce carbon dioxide and water. However when oxygen is not present they produce carbon dioxide, protons and electrons as described below[18]: C12H22O11 + 13H2O ---> 12CO2 + 48H+ + 48e- (Eqt. 1) Microbial fuel cells use inorganic mediators to tap into the electron transport chain of cells and channel electrons produced. The mediator crosses the outer cell lipid membranes and bacterial outer membrane; then, it begins to liberate electrons from the electron transport chain that normally would be taken up by oxygen or other intermediates. The now-reduced mediator exits the cell laden with electrons that it shuttles to an electrode where it deposits them; this electrode becomes the electro-generic anode (negatively charged electrode). The release of the electrons means that the mediator returns to its original oxidised state ready to repeat the process. It is important to note that this can only happen under anaerobic conditions; if oxygen is present, it will collect all the electrons as it has a greater electronegativity than mediators. In a microbial fuel cell operation, the anode is the terminal electron acceptor recognized by bacteria in the anodic chamber. Therefore, the microbial activity is strongly dependent on the redox potential of the anode. In fact, it was recently published that a Michaelis-Menten curve was obtained between the anodic potential and the power output of an acetate driven microbial fuel cell. A critical anodic potential seems to exist at which a maximum power output of a microbial fuel cell is achieved.[19] A number of mediators have been suggested for use in microbial fuel cells. These include natural red, methylene blue, thionine or resorufin.[20] This is the principle behind generating a flow of electrons from most micro-organisms (the organisms capable of producing an electric current are termed Exoelectrogens). In order to turn this into a usable supply of electricity this process has to be accommodated in a fuel cell. In order to generate a useful current it is necessary to create a complete circuit, and not just shuttle electrons to a single point. The mediator and micro-organism, in this case yeast, are mixed together in a solution to which is added a suitable substrate such as glucose. This mixture is placed in a sealed chamber to stop oxygen entering, thus forcing the micro-organism to use anaerobic respiration. An electrode is placed in the solution that will act as the anode as described previously. In the second chamber of the MFC is another solution and electrode. This electrode, called the cathode is positively charged and is the equivalent of the oxygen sink at the end of the electron transport chain, only now it is external to the biological cell. The solution is an oxidizing agent that picks up the electrons at the cathode. As with the electron chain in the yeast cell, this could be a number of molecules such as oxygen. However, this is not particularly practical as it would require large volumes of circulating gas. A more convenient option is to use a solution of a solid oxidizing agent. Connecting the two electrodes is a wire (or other electrically conductive path which may include some electrically powered device such as a light bulb) and completing the circuit and connecting the two chambers is a salt bridge or ion-exchange membrane. This last feature allows the protons produced, as described in Eqt. 1 to pass from the anode chamber to the cathode chamber.

The reduced mediator carries electrons from the cell to the electrode. Here the mediator is oxidized as it deposits the electrons. These then flow across the wire to the second electrode, which acts as an electron sink. From here they pass to an oxidising material.

[edit] Applications
[edit] Power generation

Microbial fuel cells have a number of potential uses. The most readily apparent is harvesting electricity produced for use as a power source. Virtually any organic material could be used to feed the fuel cell, including coupling cells to wastewater treatment plants. Bacteria would consume waste material from the water and produce supplementary power for the plant. The gains to be made from doing this are that MFCs are a very clean and efficient method of energy production. Chemical processing wastewater[21][22] and designed synthetic wastewater[23][24] have been used to produce bioelectricity in dual and single chambered mediatorless MFCs (non-coated graphite electrodes) apart from wastewater treatment. Higher power production was observed with biofilm covered anode (graphite).[25][26] A fuel cells emissions are well below regulations.[27] MFCs also use energy much more efficiently than standard combustion engines which are limited by the Carnot Cycle. In theory an MFC is capable of energy efficiency far beyond 50% (Yue & Lowther, 1986). According to new research conducted by Ren Rozendal, using the new microbial fuel cells, conversion of the energy to hydrogen is 8x as high as conventional hydrogen production technologies. However MFCs do not have to be used on a large scale, as the electrodes in some cases need only be 7 m thick by 2 cm long.[28] The advantages to using an MFC in this situation as opposed to a normal battery is that it uses a renewable form of energy and would not need to be recharged like a standard battery would. In addition to this they could operate well in mild conditions, 20 C to 40 C and also at pH of around 7.[29] Although more powerful than metal catalysts, they are currently too unstable for long term medical applications such as in pacemakers (Biotech/Life Sciences Portal). Besides wastewater power plants, as mentioned before, energy can also be derived directly from crops. This allows the set-up of power stations based on algae platforms or other plants incorporating a large field of aquatic plants. According to Bert Hamelers, the fields are best setup in synergy with existing renewable plants (e.g. offshore windturbines). This reduces costs as the microbial fuel cell plant can then make use of the same electricity lines as the wind turbines.

[edit] Education

Soil-based microbial fuel cells are popular educational tools, as they employ a range of scientific disciplines (microbiology, geochemistry, electrical engineering, etc.), and can be made using commonly available materials, such as soils and items from the refrigerator. There are also kits available for classrooms and hobbyists,[31] and research-grade kits for scientific laboratories and corporations.[32]
[edit] Biosensor

Since the current generated from a microbial fuel cell is directly proportional to the energy content of wastewater used as the fuel, an MFC can be used to measure the solute concentration of wastewater (i.e. as a biosensor system).[33]

The strength of wastewater is commonly evaluated as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) values.[clarification needed] BOD values are determined incubating samples for 5 days with proper source of microbes, usually activate sludge collected from sewage works. When BOD values are used as a real time control parameter, 5 days' incubation is too long. An MFC-type BOD sensor can be used to measure real time BOD values. Oxygen and nitrate are preferred electron acceptors over the electrode reducing current generation from an MFC. MFCtype BOD sensors underestimate BOD values in the presence of these electron acceptors. This can be avoided by inhibiting aerobic and nitrate respirations in the MFC using terminal oxidase inhibitors such as cyanide and azide.[34] This type of BOD sensor is commercially available.

[edit] Current research practices

Some researchers[35] point out some undesirable practices, such as recording the maximum current obtained by the cell when connecting it to a resistance as an indication of its performance, instead of the steady-state current that is often a degree of magnitude lower. Often times the data about the values of the used resistance is minimal, or even non-existent, making much of the data non-comparable across all studies. This makes extrapolation from standardized procedures difficult if not impossible.

[edit] Commercial applications

A number of companies have emerged to commercialize Microbial Fuel Cells. These companies have attempted to tap into both the remediation and electricity generating aspects of the technologies. Some of these are companies are mentioned here.[36]

A microbial electrolysis cell A microbial fuel cell (MFC) or biological fuel

Solar tracker

A solar tracker is a generic term used to describe devices that orient various payloads toward the sun. Payloads can be photovoltaic panels, reflectors, lenses or other optical devices. In flat-panel photovoltaic (PV) applications trackers are used to minimize the angle of incidence between the incoming light and a photovoltaic panel. This increases the amount of energy produced from a fixed amount of installed power generating capacity. In standard photovoltaic applications, it is estimated that trackers are used in at least 85% of commercial installations greater than 1MW from 2009 to 2012.[1][2] In concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) and concentrated solar thermal (CSP) applications trackers are used to enable the optical components in the CPV and CSP systems. The optics in concentrated solar applications accept the direct component of sunlight light and therefore must be oriented appropriately to collect energy. Tracking systems are found in all concentrator applications because such systems do not produce energy unless oriented closely toward the sun.

Types of solar collector

Different types of solar collector and their location (latitude) require different types of tracking mechanism. Solar collectors may be:
non-concentrating flat-panels, usually photovoltaic or hot-water, concentrating systems, of a variety of types.

Solar collector mounting systems may be fixed (manually aligned) or tracking. Tracking systems may be configured as:
Fixed collector / moving mirror - i.e. Heliostat Moving collector

[edit] Fixed mount

Domestic and small-scale commercial photovoltaic and hot-water panels are usually fixed, often flush-mounted on an appropriately facing pitched roof. Advantages of fixed mount systems (i.e. factors tending to indicate against trackers) include the following:
Mechanical simplicity, and hence lower installation and ongoing maintenance costs. Wind-loading: it is easier and cheaper to provision a sturdy mount; all mounts other than fixed flush-mounted panels must be carefully designed having regard to their wind loading due to their greater exposure. Indirect light: approximately 10%[3] of the incident solar radiation is diffuse light, available at any angle of misalignment with the direct sun. Tolerance to misalignment: effective collection area for a flat-panel is relatively insensitive to quite high levels of misalignment with the sun see table and diagram at Accuracy Requirements section below for example even a 25 misalignment reduces the direct solar energy collected by less than 10%.

Fixed mounts are usually used in conjunction with non-concentrating systems, however an important class of non-tracking concentrating collectors, of particular value in the 3rd world, are portable solar cookers. These utilize relatively low levels of concentration, typically around 2 to 8 Suns and are manually aligned.

[edit] Trackers

Even though a fixed flat-panel can be set to collect a high proportion of available noon-time energy, significant power is also available in the early mornings and late afternoons[4] when the misalignment with a fixed panel becomes excessive to collect a reasonable proportion of the available energy. For example, even when the Sun is only 10 above the horizon the available energy can already be around half the noon-time energy levels (or even greater depending on latitude, season, and atmospheric conditions). Thus the primary benefit of a tracking system is to collect solar energy for the longest period of the day, and with the most accurate alignment as the Sun's position shifts with the seasons. In addition, the greater the level of concentration employed the more important accurate tracking becomes, because the proportion of energy derived from direct radiation is higher, and the region where that concentrated energy is focused becomes smaller.
[edit] Fixed collector / moving mirror Main article: Heliostat

Many collectors cannot be moved, for example high-temperature collectors where the energy is recovered as hot liquid or gas (e.g. steam). Other examples include direct heating and lighting of buildings and fixed in-built solar cookers, such as Scheffler reflectors. In such cases it is necessary to employ a moving mirror so that, regardless of where the Sun is positioned in the sky, the Sun's rays are redirected onto the collector. Due to the complicated motion of the Sun across the sky, and the level of precision required to correctly aim the Sun's rays onto the target, a heliostat mirror generally employs a dual axis tracking system, with at least one axis mechanized. In different applications, mirrors may be flat or concave.
[edit] Moving collector

Trackers can be grouped into classes by the number and orientation of the tracker's axes. Compared to a fixed mount, a single axis tracker increases annual output by approximately 30%, and a dual axis tracker an additional 6%.[5][6] Photovoltaic trackers can be classified into two types: Standard Photovoltaic (PV) Trackers and Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Trackers. Each of these tracker types can be further categorized by the number and orientation of their axes, their actuation architecture and drive type, their intended applications, their vertical supports and foundation type.

[edit] Non-concentrating photovoltaic (PV) trackers

Photovoltaic panels accept both direct and diffuse light from the sky. The panels on a Standard Photovoltaic Trackers always gather the available direct light. The tracking functionality in Standard Photovoltaic Trackers is used to minimize the angle of incidence between incoming light and the photovoltaic panel. This increases the amount of energy gathered from the direct component of the incoming light.

[edit] Accuracy requirements

The effective collection area of a flat-panel solar collector varies with the cosine of the misalignment of the panel with the Sun.

In non-concentrating flat-panel systems, the energy contributed by the direct beam drops off with the cosine of the angle between the incoming light and the panel. In addition, the reflectance (averaged across all polarizations) is approximately constant for angles of incidence up to around 50, beyond which reflectance degrades rapidly.[7]
Direct power lost (%) due to misalignment (angle i ) i 0 1 3 8 23.4[10] Lost 0% 0.015% 0.14% 1% 8.3% i 15 30 45 60 75 hours[8] 1 2 3 4 5 Lost 3.4% 13.4% 30% >50%[9] >75%[9]

For example trackers that have accuracies of 5 can deliver greater than 99.6% of the energy delivered by the direct beam plus 100% of the diffuse light. As a result, high accuracy tracking is not typically used in non-concentrating PV applications.
[edit] Technologies supported

The physics behind standard photovoltaic (PV) trackers works with all standard photovoltaic module technologies. These include all types of crystalline silicon panels (monocrystalline, multicrystalline, polycrystalline) and all types of thin film panels (amorphous silicon, CdTe, CIGS, microcrystalline).

[edit] Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) trackers

The optics in CPV modules accept the direct component of the incoming light and therefore must be oriented appropriately to maximize the energy collected. In low concentration applications a portion of the diffuse light from the sky can also be captured. The tracking functionality in CPV modules is used to orient the optics such that the incoming light is focused to a photovoltaic collector. CPV modules that concentrate in one dimension must be tracked normal to the sun in one axis. CPV modules that concentrate in two dimensions must be tracked normal to the sun in two axes.
[edit] Accuracy requirements

The physics behind CPV optics requires that tracking accuracy increase as the systems concentration ratio increases. However, for a given concentration, nonimaging optics[11][12] provide the widest possible acceptance angles, which may be used to reduce tracking accuracy. In typical high concentration systems tracking accuracy must be in the 0.1 range to deliver approximately 90% of the rated power output. In low concentration systems, tracking accuracy must be in the 2.0 range to deliver 90% of the rated power output. As a result, high accuracy tracking systems are typically used.
[edit] Technologies supported

Concentrated Photovoltaic Trackers are used with refractive and reflective based concentrator systems. There are a range of emerging photovoltaic cell technologies used in these systems. These range from crystalline silicon based photovoltaic receivers to germanium based triple junction receivers.

[edit] Single axis trackers

Single axis trackers have one degree of freedom that acts as an axis of rotation. The axis of rotation of single axis trackers is typically aligned along a true North meridian. It is possible to align them in any cardinal direction with advanced tracking algorithms. There are several common implementations of single axis trackers. These include horizontal single axis trackers (HSAT), vertical single axis trackers (VSAT), tilted single axis trackers (TSAT) and polar aligned single axis trackers (PSAT). The orientation of the module with respect to the tracker axis is important when modeling performance.
[edit] Horizontal single axis tracker (HSAT)

Horizontal single axis tracker in California

Linear horizontal axis tracker in South Korea.

The axis of rotation for horizontal single axis tracker is horizontal with respect to the ground. The posts at either end of the axis of rotation of a horizontal single axis tracker can be shared between trackers to lower the installation cost. Field layouts with horizontal single axis trackers are very flexible. The simple geometry means that keeping all of the axis of rotation parallel to one another is all that is required for appropriately positioning the trackers with respect to one another. Appropriate spacing can maximize the ratio of energy production to cost, this being dependent upon local terrain and shading conditions and the time-of-day value of the energy produced. Backtracking is one means of computing the disposition of panels. Horizontal Trackers typically have the face of the module oriented parallel to the axis of rotation. As a module tracks, it sweeps a cylinder that is rotationally symmetric around the axis of rotation. Several manufacturers can deliver single axis horizontal trackers. In these, a long horizontal tube is supported on bearings mounted upon pylons or frames. The axis of the tube is on a NorthSouth line. Panels are mounted upon the tube, and the tube will rotate on its axis to track the apparent motion of the sun through the day. Manufacturers include Array Technologies, Patriot Solar Group, RayTracker, SunPower, ViaSol Energy Solutions, and Zomeworks.
[edit] Vertical single axis tracker (VSAT)

The axis of rotation for vertical single axis trackers is vertical with respect to the ground. These trackers rotate from East to West over the course of the day. Such trackers are more effective at high latitudes than are horizontal axis trackers. Field layouts must consider shading to avoid unnecessary energy losses and to optimize land utilization. Also optimization for dense packing is limited due to the nature of the shading over the course of a year.

Vertical single axis trackers typically have the face of the module oriented at an angle with respect to the axis of rotation. As a module tracks, it sweeps a cone that is rotationally symmetric around the axis of rotation. Manufacturers include Ideematec and Meca Solar.
[edit] Tilted single axis tracker (TSAT)

Single axis trackers with roughly 20 degree tilt at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, USA. The arrays form part of the Nellis Solar Power Plant. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr.

All trackers with axes of rotation between horizontal and vertical are considered tilted single axis trackers. Tracker tilt angles are often limited to reduce the wind profile and decrease the elevated ends height off the ground. Field layouts must consider shading to avoid unnecessary losses and to optimize land utilization. With backtracking, they can be packed without shading perpendicular to their axis of rotation at any density. However, the packing parallel to their axis of rotation is limited by the tilt angle and the latitude. Tilted single axis trackers typically have the face of the module oriented parallel to the axis of rotation. As a module tracks, it sweeps a cylinder that is rotationally symmetric around the axis of rotation.
[edit] Polar aligned single axis trackers (PASAT)

One scientifically interesting variation of a tilted single axis tracker is a polar aligned single axis trackers (PASAT). In this particular implementation of a Tilted Single Axis Tracker the tilt angle is equal to the latitude of the installation. This aligns the tracker axis of rotation with the earths axis of rotation. These are rarely deployed because of their high wind profile.

[edit] Dual axis trackers

Dual axis trackers have two degrees of freedom that act as axes of rotation. These axes are typically normal to one another. The axis that is fixed with respect to the ground can be considered a primary axis. The axis that is referenced to the primary axis can be considered a secondary axis.

There are several common implementations of dual axis trackers. They are classified by the orientation of their primary axes with respect to the ground. Two common implementations are tip-tilt dual axis trackers (TTDAT) and azimuth-altitude dual axis trackers (AADAT). The orientation of the module with respect to the tracker axis is important when modeling performance. Dual axis trackers typically have modules oriented parallel to the secondary axis of rotation. Dual axis trackers allow for optimum solar energy levels due to their ability to follow the sun vertically and horizontally. No matter where the sun is in the sky, dual axis trackers are able to angle themselves to be in direct contact with the sun.
[edit] Tiptilt dual axis tracker (TTDAT)

A tiptilt dual axis tracker has its primary axis horizontal to the ground. The secondary axis is then typically normal to the primary axis. The posts at either end of the primary axis of rotation of a tiptilt dual axis tracker can be shared between trackers to lower installation costs. Field layouts with tiptilt dual axis trackers are very flexible. The simple geometry means that keeping the axes of rotation parallel to one another is all that is required for appropriately positioning the trackers with respect to one another. In addition, with backtracking, they can be packed without shading at any density.[clarification needed] The axes of rotation of tiptilt dual axis trackers are typically aligned either along a true North meridian or an east west line of latitude. It is possible to align them in any cardinal direction with advanced tracking algorithms. Manufacturers include Patriot Solar Group.

Azimuth-altitude dual axis tracker - 2 axis solar tracker, Toledo, Spain.

Point focus parabolic dish with Stirling system. The horizontally rotating azimuth table mounts the vertical frames on each side which hold the elevation trunnions for the dish and its integral engine/generator mount.

[edit] Azimuth-altitude dual axis tracker (AADAT)

An azimuthaltitude dual axis tracker has its primary axis vertical to the ground. The secondary axis is then typically normal to the primary axis. Field layouts must consider shading to avoid unnecessary energy losses and to optimize land utilization. Also optimization for dense packing is limited due to the nature of the shading over the course of a year. This mount is used as a large telescope mount owing to its structure and dimensions. One axis is a vertical pivot shaft or horizontal ring mount, that allows the device to be swung to a compass point. The second axis is a horizontal elevation pivot mounted upon the azimuth platform. By using combinations of the two axis, any location in the upward hemisphere may be pointed. Such systems may be operated under computer control according to the expected solar orientation, or may use a tracking sensor to control motor drives that orient the panels toward the sun. This type of mount is also used to orient parabolic reflectors that mount a Stirling engine to produce electricity at the device.[13]

[edit] Tracker type selection

The selection of tracker type is dependent on many factors including installation size, electric rates, government incentives, land constraints, latitude, and local weather. Horizontal single axis trackers are typically used for large distributed generation projects and utility scale projects. The combination of energy improvement and lower product cost and lower installation complexity results in compelling economics in large deployments. In addition the strong afternoon performance is particularly desirable for large grid-tied photovoltaic systems so that production will match the peak demand time. Horizontal single axis trackers also add a substantial amount of productivity during the spring and summer seasons when the sun is high in the sky. The inherent robustness of their supporting structure and the simplicity of the mechanism also result in high reliability which keeps maintenance costs low. Since the panels are horizontal, they can be compactly placed on the axle tube without danger of self-shading and are also readily accessible for cleaning. A vertical axis trackers pivots only about a vertical axle, with the panels either vertical, at a fixed, adjustable, or tracked elevation angle. Such trackers with fixed or (seasonably) adjustable angles are suitable for high latitudes, where the apparent solar path is not especially high, but which leads to long days in summer, with the sun travelling through a long arc. Dual axis trackers are typically used in smaller residential installations and locations with very high government Feed In Tariffs.

[edit] Multi-mirror concentrating PV

Reflective mirror concentrator units

This device uses multiple mirrors in a horizontal plane to reflect sunlight upward to a high temperature photovoltaic or other system requiring concentrated solar power. Structural problems and expense are greatly reduced since the mirrors are not significantly exposed to wind loads. Through the employment of a patented mechanism, only two drive systems are required for each device. Because of the configuration of the device it is especially suited for use on flat roofs and at lower latitudes. The units illustrated each produce approximately 200 peak DC watts. A multiple mirror reflective system combined with a central power tower is employed at the Sierra SunTower, located in Lancaster, California. This generation plant operated by eSolar is scheduled to begin operations on August 5, 2009. This system, which uses multiple heliostats in a north-south alignment, uses pre-fabricated parts and construction as a way of decreasing startup and operating costs.

[edit] Drive types

[edit] Active tracker

Slewing drive

Active trackers use motors and gear trains to direct the tracker as commanded by a controller responding to the solar direction. In order to control and manage the movement of these massive structures special slewing drives are designed and rigorously tested. Counter rotating slewing drives sandwiching a fixed angle support can be applied to create a "multi-axis" tracking method which eliminates rotation relative to longitudinal alignment. This method if placed on a column or pillar it will generate more electricity than fixed PV and its PV array will never rotate into a parking lot drive lane. It will also allow for maximum solar generation in virtually any parking lot lane/row orientation, including circular or curvilinear. Active two-axis trackers are also used to orient heliostats - movable mirrors that reflect sunlight toward the absorber of a central power station. As each mirror in a large field will have an individual orientation these are controlled programmatically through a central computer system, which also allows the system to be shut down when necessary.

Light-sensing trackers typically have two photosensors, such as photodiodes, configured differentially so that they output a null when receiving the same light flux. Mechanically, they should be omnidirectional (i.e. flat) and are aimed 90 degrees apart. This will cause the steepest part of their cosine transfer functions to balance at the steepest part, which translates into maximum sensitivity. For more information about controllers see active daylighting. Since the motors consume energy, one wants to use them only as necessary. So instead of a continuous motion, the heliostat is moved in discrete steps. Also, if the light is below some threshold there would not be enough power generated to warrant reorientation. This is also true when there is not enough difference in light level from one direction to another, such as when clouds are passing overhead. Consideration must be made to keep the tracker from wasting energy during cloudy periods.
[edit] Passive tracker

Passive tracker head in Spring/Summer tilt position with panels on light blue rack pivoted to morning position against stop. Dark blue objects are hydraulic dampers.

Passive trackers use a low boiling point compressed gas fluid that is driven to one side or the other (by solar heat creating gas pressure) to cause the tracker to move in response to an imbalance. As this is a non-precision orientation it is unsuitable for certain types of concentrating photovoltaic collectors but works fine for common PV panel types. These will have viscous dampers to prevent excessive motion in response to wind gusts. Shader/reflectors are used to reflect early morning sunlight to "wake up" the panel and tilt it toward the sun, which can take nearly an hour. The time to do this can be greatly reduced by adding a self-releasing tiedown that positions the panel slightly past the zenith (so that the fluid does not have to overcome gravity) and using the tiedown in the evening. (A slack-pulling spring will prevent release in windy overnight conditions.) The term "passive tracker" is also used for photovoltaic modules that include a hologram behind stripes of photovoltaic cells. That way, sunlight passes through the transparent part of the module and reflects on the hologram. This allows sunlight to hit the cell from behind, thereby increasing the module's efficiency. Also, the module does not have to move since the hologram always reflects sunlight from the correct angle towards the cells.

[edit] Chronological tracker

A chronological tracker counteracts the Earth's rotation by turning at an equal rate as the earth, but in the opposite direction. Actually the rates aren't quite equal, because as the earth goes around the sun, the position of the sun changes with respect to the earth by 360 every year or 365.24 days. A chronological tracker is a very simple yet potentially a very accurate solar tracker specifically for use with a polar mount (see above). The drive method may be as simple as a gear motor that rotates at a very slow average rate of one revolution per day (15 degrees per hour). In theory the tracker may rotate completely, assuming there is enough clearance for a complete rotation, and assuming that twisting wires are not an issue.
[edit] Manual Tracking

In some developing nations, drives have been replaced by operators who adjust the trackers. This has the benefits of robustness, having staff available for maintenance and creating employment for the population in the vicinity of the site.

[edit] Rotating buildings

Gemini House rotates in its entirety and the solar panels rotate independently, allowing control of the natural heating from the sun.

ReVolt House, TU Delft's entry to Solar Decathlon Europe 2012.

This cylindrical house in Austria (latitude above 45 degrees north) rotates in its entirety to track the sun, with vertical panels mounted on one side of the building. This Gemini House is a unique example of a vertical axis tracker.

ReVolt House is a rotating, floating house designed by TU Delft students for the Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Madrid. The house would be realized in September 2012. A closed faade turns itself towards the sun in summer to prevent the interior space from direct heat gains. In winter, the glass faade faces the sun to get direct sunlight in the house

A backyard installation of passive singleaxis trackers in winter midday position, tilted toward the south. The tall poles allow walk-under and use of the ground space underneath the panels for plantings that thrive on protection from the intense midday summer sun at this location For solar tracking in plants, see Heliotropism. For solar telescope tracking, see

Photovoltaic system
A photovoltaic system (or PV system) is a system which uses one or more solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. It consists of multiple components, including the photovoltaic modules, mechanical and electrical connections and mountings and means of regulating and/or modifying the electrical output.

Photovoltaic modules
Due to the low voltage of an individual solar cell (typically ca. 0.5V), several cells are wired in series in the manufacture of a "laminate". The laminate is assembled into a protective weatherproof enclosure, thus making a photovoltaic module or solar panel. Modules may then be strung together into a photovoltaic array. The electricity generated can be either stored, used directly (island/standalone plant)or fed into a large electricity grid powered by central generation plants (grid-connected/grid-tied plant) or combined with one or many domestic electricity generators to feed into a small grid (hybrid plant).[1] Depending on the type of application, the rest of the system ("balance of system" or "BOS") consists of different components. The BOS depends on the load profile and the system type. Systems are generally designed in order to ensure the highest energy yield for a given investment.

[edit] Photovoltaic arrays

A photovoltaic array is a linked assembly of PV modules.

The solar panels on this small yacht at sea can charge the 12 volt batteries at up to 9 amperes in full, direct sunlight.

A photovoltaic array (or solar array) is a linked collection of solar panels.[2] The power that one module can produce is seldom enough to meet requirements of a home or a business, so the modules are linked together to form an array. Most PV arrays use an inverter to convert the DC power produced by the modules into alternating current that can power lights, motors, and other loads. The modules in a PV array are usually first connected in series to obtain the desired voltage; the individual strings are then connected in parallel to allow the system to produce more current. Solar arrays are typically measured under STC (standard test conditions) or PTC (PVUSA test conditions), in watts, kilowatts, or even megawatts. Costs of production have been reduced in recent[when?] years for more widespread use through production and technological advances. One source claims the cost in February 2006 ranged $3 10/watt while a similar size is said to have cost $810/watt in February 1996, depending on type. [2] For example, crystal silicon solar cells have largely been replaced by less expensive multicrystalline silicon solar cells, and thin film silicon solar cells have also been developed recently at lower costs of production. Although they are reduced in energy conversion efficiency

from single crystalline "siwafers", they are also much easier to produce at comparably lower costs.

[edit] Applications
[edit] Standalone systems Main article: Stand-alone photovoltaic power system

Solar powered parking meter.

A standalone system does not have a connection to the electricity "mains" (aka "grid"). Standalone systems vary widely in size and application from wristwatches or calculators to remote buildings or spacecraft. If the load is to be supplied independently of solar insolation, the generated power is stored and buffered with a battery. In non-portable applications where weight is not an issue, such as in buildings, lead acid batteries are most commonly used for their low cost. A charge controller may be incorporated in the system to: a) avoid battery damage by excessive charging or discharging and, b) optimizing the production of the cells or modules by maximum power point tracking (MPPT).[citation needed] However, in simple PV systems where the PV module voltage is matched to the battery voltage, the use of MPPT electronics is generally considered unnecessary, since the battery voltage is stable enough to provide near-maximum power collection from the PV module. In small devices (e.g. calculators, parking meters) only direct current (DC) is consumed. In larger systems (e.g. buildings, remote water pumps) AC is usually required. To convert the DC from the modules or batteries into AC, an inverter is used.

A schematic of a bare-bones off-grid system, consisting (from left to right) of photovoltaic module, a blocking-diode to prevent battery drain during lowinsolation, a battery, an inverter, and an AC load such as a fluorescent lamp

off-grid PV system with battery charger [edit] Solar vehicles Main article: Solar vehicles

Ground, water, air or space vehicles may obtain some or all of the energy required for their operation from the sun. Surface vehicles generally require higher power levels than can be sustained by a practically-sized solar array, so a battery is used to meet peak power demand, and the solar array recharges it. Space vehicles have successfully used solar photovoltaic systems for years of operation, eliminating the weight of fuel or primary batteries.
[edit] Small scale DIY solar systems

With a growing DIY-community and an increasing interest in environmentally friendly "green energy", some hobbyists have endeavored to build their own PV solar systems from kits [3] or partly diy.[4] Usually, the DIY-community uses inexpensive [5] and/or high efficiency systems[6] (such as those with solar tracking) to generate their own power. As a result, the DIY-systems often end up cheaper than their commercial counterparts.[7] Often, the system is also hooked up into the regular power grid to repay part of the investment via net metering. These systems usually generate power amount of ~2 kW or less. Through the internet, the community is now able to obtain plans to construct the system (at least partly DIY) and there is a growing trend toward building them for domestic requirements. The DIY-PV solar systems are now also being used both in developed countries and in developing countries, to power residences and small businesses.
[edit] Grid-connected system Main article: Grid-connected photovoltaic power system

Diagram of a residential grid-connected PV system

A grid connected system is connected to a large independent grid (typically the public electricity grid) and feeds power into the grid. Grid connected systems vary in size from residential (210kWp) to solar power stations (up to 10s of MWp). This is a form of decentralized electricity generation. In the case of residential or building mounted grid connected PV systems, the electricity demand of the building is met by the PV system. Only the excess is fed into the grid when there is an excess. The feeding of electricity into the grid requires the transformation of DC into AC by a special, grid-controlled solar inverter. In kW sized installations the DC side system voltage is as high as permitted (typically 1000V except US residential 600V) to limit ohmic losses. Most modules (72 crystalline silicon cells) generate about 160W at 36 volts. It is sometimes necessary or desirable to connect the modules partially in parallel rather than all in series. One set of modules connected in series is known as a 'string'.
[edit] Building systems

In urban and suburban areas, photovoltaic arrays are commonly used on rooftops to supplement power use; often the building will have a connection to the power grid, in which case the energy produced by the PV array can be sold back to the utility in some sort of net metering agreement. Solar trees are arrays that, as the name implies, mimic the look of trees, provide shade, and at night can function as street lights. In agricultural settings, the array may be used to directly power DC pumps, without the need for an inverter. In remote settings such as mountainous areas, islands, or other places where a power grid is unavailable, solar arrays can be used as the sole source of electricity, usually by charging a storage battery. There is financial support available for people wishing to install PV arrays. In the UK, households are paid a 'Feedback Fee' to buy excess electricity at a flat rate per kWh. This is up to 44.3p/kWh which can allow a home to earn double their usual annual domestic electricity bill.[8] The current UK feed-in tariff system is due for review on 31 March 2012, after which the current scheme may no longer be available.[9]

[edit] Power plants

Waldpolenz Solar Park, Germany

A photovoltaic power station is a power station using photovoltaic modules and inverters for utility scale electricity generation, connected to an electricity transmission grid. Some large photovoltaic power stations like Waldpolenz Solar Park cover a significant area and have a maximum power output of 40-60 MW.[citation needed]

[edit] System performance

[edit] Insolation and energy

At high noon on a cloudless day at the equator, the power of the sun is about 1 kW/m,[10] on the Earth's surface, to a plane that is perpendicular to the sun's rays. As such, PV arrays can track the sun through each day to greatly enhance energy collection. However, tracking devices add cost, and require maintenance, so it is more common for PV arrays to have fixed mounts that tilt the array and face due South in the Northern Hemisphere (in the Southern Hemisphere, they should point due North). The tilt angle, from horizontal, can be varied for season, but if fixed, should be set to give optimal array output during the peak electrical demand portion of a typical year. For the weather and latitudes of the United States and Europe, typical insolation ranges from 4 kWh/m/day in northern climes to 6.5 kWh/m/day in the sunniest regions. Typical solar panels have an average efficiency of 12%, with the best commercially available panels at 20%. Thus, a photovoltaic installation in the southern latitudes of Europe or the United States may expect to produce 1 kWh/m/day. A typical "150 watt" solar panel is about a square meter in size. Such a panel may be expected to produce 1 kWh every day, on average, after taking into account the weather and the latitude.[citation needed] In the Sahara desert, with less cloud cover and a better solar angle, one could ideally obtain closer to 8.3 kWh/m/day provided the nearly ever present wind would not blow sand on the units. The unpopulated area of the Sahara desert is over 9 million km, which if covered with

solar panels would provide 630 terawatts total power.[citation needed] The Earth's current energy consumption rate is around 13.5 TW at any given moment (including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric).
[edit] Tracking the sun

Trackers and sensors to optimise the performance are often seen as optional, but tracking systems can increase viable output by up to 100%.[2] PV arrays that approach or exceed one megawatt often use solar trackers. Accounting for clouds, and the fact that most of the world is not on the equator, and that the sun sets in the evening, the correct measure of solar power is insolation the average number of kilowatt-hours per square meter per day. For the weather and latitudes of the United States and Europe, typical insolation ranges from 4kWh/m/day in northern climes to 6.5 kWh/m/day in the sunniest regions. For large systems, the energy gained by using tracking systems outweighs the added complexity (trackers can increase efficiency by 30% or more).
[edit] Shading and dirt

Photovoltaic cell electrical output is extremely sensitive to shading. When even a small portion of a cell, module, or array is shaded, while the remainder is in sunlight, the output falls dramatically due to internal 'short-circuiting' (the electrons reversing course through the shaded portion of the p-n junction). If the current drawn from the series string of cells is no greater than the current that can be produced by the shaded cell, the current (and so power) developed by the string is limited. If enough voltage is available from the rest of the cells in a string, current will be forced through the cell by breaking down the junction in the shaded portion. This breakdown voltage in common cells is between 10 and 30 volts. Instead of adding to the power produced by the panel, the shaded cell absorbs power, turning it into heat. Since the reverse voltage of a shaded cell is much greater than the forward voltage of an illuminated cell, one shaded cell can absorb the power of many other cells in the string, disproportionately affecting panel output. For example, a shaded cell may drop 8 volts, instead of adding 0.5 volts, at a particular current level, thereby absorbing the power produced by 16 other cells.[11] Therefore it is extremely important that a PV installation is not shaded at all by trees, architectural features, flag poles, or other obstructions. Most modules have bypass diodes between each cell or string of cells that minimize the effects of shading and only lose the power of the shaded portion of the array (The main job of the bypass diode is to eliminate hot spots that form on cells that can cause further damage to the array, and cause fires.). Sunlight can be absorbed by dust, snow, or other impurities at the surface of the module. This can cut down the amount of light that actually strikes the cells by as much as half. Maintaining a clean module surface will increase output performance over the life of the module.
[edit] Temperature

Module output and life are also degraded by increased temperature. Allowing ambient air to flow over, and if possible behind, PV modules reduces this problem.
[edit] Module efficiency

In 2010, solar panels available for consumers can have a yield of up to 19%,[12] while commercially available panels can go as far as 27%.[13][dead link] Thus, a photovoltaic installation in

the southern latitudes of Europe or the United States may expect to produce 1 kWh/m/day[dated info] . A typical "150 watt" solar panel is about a square meter in size. Such a panel may be expected to produce 1 kWh every day, on average, after taking into account the weather and the latitude[dated info].
[edit] Monitoring

Photovoltaic systems need to be monitored to detect breakdown and optimize their operation. Several photovoltaic monitoring strategies depending on the output of the installation and its nature. Monitoring can be performed on site or remotely. It can measure production only, retrieve all the data from the inverter or retrieve all of the data from the communicating equipment (probes, meters, etc.). Monitoring tools can be dedicated to supervision only or offer additional functions. Individual inverters may include monitoring using manufacturer specific protocols and software. Energy metering of an inverter may be of limited accuracy and not suitable for revenue metering purposes. A third-party data acquisition system can monitor multiple inverters, using the inverter manufacturer's protocols, and also acquire weather-related information. Independent smart meters may measure the total energy production of a PV array system. Separate measures such as satellite image analaysis or a solar radiation meter (a pyranometer) can be used to estimate total insolation. Data collected from a monitoring system can be displayed remotely over the World Wide Web. Some companies offer analysis software to analyze system performance. Small residential systems may have minimal data analysis requirements other than perhaps total energy production; larger grid-connected power plants can benefit from more detailed investigations of performance.
[edit] Performance factors

Uncertainties in revenue over time relate mostly to the evaluation of the solar resource and to the performance of the system itself. In the best of cases, uncertainties are typically 4% for year-toyear climate variability, 5% for solar resource estimation (in a horizontal plane), 3% for estimation of irradiation in the plane of the array, 3% for power rating of modules, 2% for losses due to dirt and soiling, 1.5% for losses due to snow, and 5% for other sources of error. Identifying and reacting to manageable losses is critical for revenue and O&M efficiency. Monitoring of array performance may be part of contractual agreements between the array owner, the builder, and the utility purchasing the energy produced. Access to the Internet has allowed a further improvement in energy monitoring and communication. Dedicated systems are available from a number of vendors. For solar PV system that use microInverters (panel-level DC to AC conversion), module power data is automatically provided. Some systems allow setting performance alerts that trigger phone/email/text warnings when limits are reached. These solutions provide data for the system owner and the installer. Installers are able to remotely monitor multiple installations, and see at-a-glance the status of their entire installed base.
[edit] Module life

Effective module lives are typically 25 years or more.[14]

[edit] Components
[edit] Trackers

A solar tracker tilts a solar panel throughout the day. Depending on the type of tracking system, the panel is either aimed directly at the sun or the brightest area of a partly clouded sky. Trackers greatly enhance early morning and late afternoon performance, substantially increasing the total amount of power produced by a system. Trackers are effective in regions that receive a large portion of sunlight directly. In diffuse light (i.e. under cloud or fog), tracking has little or no value. Because most concentrated photovoltaics systems are very sensitive to the sunlight's angle, tracking systems allow them to produce useful power for more than a brief period each day. Tracking systems improve performance for two main reasons. First, when a solar panel is perpendicular to the sunlight, the light it receives is more intense than it would be if angled. Second, direct light is used more efficiently than angled light. Special Anti-reflective coatings can improve solar panel efficiency for direct and angled light, somewhat reducing the benefit of tracking.[15] [16]
[edit] Inverters

Inverter for grid connected PV Main articles: Solar inverter and Solar micro-inverter

On the AC side, these inverters must supply electricity in sinusoidal form, synchronized to the grid frequency, limit feed in voltage to no higher than the grid voltage including disconnecting from the grid if the grid voltage is turned off.

On the DC side, the power output of a module varies as a function of the voltage in a way that power generation can be optimized by varying the system voltage to find the 'maximum power point'. Most inverters therefore incorporate 'maximum power point tracking'. A solar inverter may connect to a string of solar panels. In small installations a solar microinverter is connected at each solar panel. For safety reasons a circuit breaker is provided both on the AC and DC side to enable maintenance. AC output may be connected through an electricity meter into the public grid. The meter must be able to run in both directions. In some countries, for installations over 30kWp a frequency and a voltage monitor with disconnection of all phases is required.
[edit] Mounting systems Main article: Photovoltaic mounting system

Ground mounted system

Modules are assembled into arrays on some kind of mounting system. For solar parks a large rack is mounted on the ground, and the modules mounted on the rack.

For buildings, many different racks have been devised for pitched roofs. For flat roofs, racks, bins and building integrated solutions are used.

[edit] Connection to a DC grid

DC grids are only to be found in electric powered transport: railways trams and trolleybuses. A few pilot plants for such applications have been built, such as the tram depots in Hannover Leinhausen [17] and Geneva (Bachet de Pesay).[18] The 150 kWp Geneva site feeds 600V DC directly into the tram/trolleybus electricity network provided about 15% of the electricity at its opening in 1999.

[edit] Hybrid systems

A hybrid system combines PV with other forms of generation, usually a diesel generator. Biogas is also used. The other form of generation may be a type able to modulate power output as a function of demand. However more than one renewable form of energy may be used e.g. wind. The photovoltaic power generation serves to reduce the consumption of non renewable fuel. Hybrid systems are most often found on islands. Pellworm island in Germany and Kythnos island in Greece are notable examples (both are combined with wind).[19][20] The Kythnos plant has diocane diesel consumption by 11.2% [21] There has also been recent work showing that the PV penetration limit can be increased by deploying a distributed network of PV+CHP hybrid systems in the U.S.[22] The temporal distribution of solar flux, electrical and heating requirements for representative U.S. single family residences were analyzed and the results clearly show that hybridizing CHP with PV can enable additional PV deployment above what is possible with a conventional centralized electric generation system. This theory was reconfirmed with numerical simulations using per second solar flux data to determine that the necessary battery backup to provide for such a hybrid system is possible with relatively small and inexpensive battery systems.[23] In addition, large PV+CHP systems are possible for institutional buildings, which again provide back up for intermittent PV and reduce CHP runtime.[24]

[edit] Standardization
Increasing use of photovoltaic systems and integration of photovoltaic power into existing structures and techniques of supply and distribution increases the value of general standards and definitions for photovoltaic components and systems. The standards are compiled at the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and apply to efficiency, durability and safety of cells, modules, simulation programs, plug connectors and cables, mounting systems, overall efficiency of inverters etc.

[edit] Legality of photovoltaic systems

The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (December

The State of California prohibits Homeowners' associations from restricting solar devices.[25] Many localities require a license to install a photovoltaic system. A grid-tied system normally requires a licensed electrician to make the connection between the system and the grid-connected wiring of the building.[26]

"Solar park" or "PV farm"

A grid-tied residential PV system

PV array on an old house A photovoltaic system (or PV system) is a system which uses one or more solar panels to

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MHD generator
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Energy portal

The MHD (magnetohydrodynamic) generator or dynamo transforms thermal energy or kinetic energy directly into electricity. MHD generators are different from traditional electric generators in that they can operate at high temperatures without moving parts. MHD was developed because the exhaust of a plasma MHD generator is a flame, still able to heat the boilers of a steam power plant. So high-temperature MHD was developed as a topping cycle to increase the efficiency of electric generation, especially when burning coal or natural gas. MHD dynamos are the complement of MHD propulsors, which have been applied to pump liquid metals and in several experimental ship engines.

MHD generator Key segmentees - segmented electrodes solenoides - solenoids sortie - output entree - entry tuyere de mise en vitesse - acceleration nozzle

The basic concept underlying the mechanical and fluid dynamos is the same. The fluid dynamo, however, uses the motion of fluid or plasma to generate the currents which generate the electrical energy. The mechanical dynamo, in contrast, uses the motion of mechanical devices to accomplish this. The functional difference between an MHD generator and an MHD dynamo is the path the charged particles follow. MHD generators are now practical for fossil fuels, but have been overtaken by other, less expensive technologies, such as combined cycles in which a gas turbine's or molten carbonate fuel cell's exhaust heats steam for steam turbine. Natural MHD dynamos are an active area of research in plasma physics and are of great interest to the geophysics and astrophysics communities. From their perspective the earth is a global MHD dynamo and with the aid of the particles on the solar wind produces the aurora borealis. The differently charged electromagnetic layers produced by the dynamo effect on the Earth's geomagnetic field enable the appearance of the aurora borealis. As power is extracted from the plasma of the solar wind, the particles slow and are drawn down along the field lines in a brilliant display over the poles.

[hide] 1 Principle 2 Power generation 2.1 Faraday generator 2.2 Hall generator 2.3 Disc generator

2.4 Generator efficiency 2.5 Economics 2.6 Toxic byproducts 3.1 Serbian development 3.2 U.S. development 3.3 Japanese development 3.4 Australian development 3.5 Italian development 3.6 Chinese development 3.7 Russian developments

3 History

4 See also 5 External links 5.1 Research 5.2 References

[edit] Principle
The Lorentz Force Law describes the effects of a charged particle moving in a constant magnetic field. The simplest form of this law is given by the vector equation.

F is the force acting on the particle. Q is the charge of the particle, v is the velocity of the particle, and B is the magnetic field.

The vector F is perpendicular to both v and B according to the right hand rule.

[edit] Power generation

Typically, for a large scale power station to approach the operational efficiency of computer models, steps must be taken to increase the electrical conductivity of the conductive substance. The heating of a gas to its plasma state or the addition of other easily ionizable substances like the salts of alkali metals can accomplish this increase. In practice, a number of issues must be considered in the implementation of an MHD generator: generator efficiency, economics, and toxic byproducts. These issues are affected by the choice of one of the three MHD generator designs: the Faraday generator, the Hall generator, and the disc generator.

[edit] Faraday generator

The Faraday generator is named after the man who first looked for the effect in the Thames river (see history). A simple Faraday generator would consist of a wedge-shaped pipe or tube of some non-conductive material. When an electrically conductive fluid flows through the tube, in the presence of a significant perpendicular magnetic field, a charge is induced in the field, which can be drawn off as electrical power by placing the electrodes on the sides at 90 degree angles to the magnetic field. There are limitations on the density and type of field used. The amount of power that can be extracted is proportional to the cross sectional area of the tube and the speed of the conductive flow. The conductive substance is also cooled and slowed by this process. MHD generators typically reduce the temperature of the conductive substance from plasma temperatures to just over 1000 C. The main practical problem of a Faraday generator is that differential voltages and currents in the fluid short through the electrodes on the sides of the duct. The most powerful waste is from the Hall effect current. This makes the Faraday duct very inefficient. Most further refinements of MHD generators have tried to solve this problem. The optimal magnetic field on duct-shaped MHD generators is a sort of saddle shape. To get this field, a large generator requires an extremely powerful magnet. Many research groups have tried to adapt superconducting magnets to this purpose, with varying success.
[edit] Hall generator

The most common solution is to use the Hall effect to create a current that flows with the fluid. The normal scheme is to place arrays of short, vertical electrodes on the sides of the duct. The first and last electrodes in the duct power the load. Each other electrode is shorted to an electrode on the opposite side of the duct. These shorts of the Faraday current induce a powerful magnetic field within the fluid, but in a chord of a circle at right angles to the Faraday current. This secondary, induced field makes current flow in a rainbow shape between the first and last electrodes. Losses are less than a Faraday generator, and voltages are higher because there is less shorting of the final induced current. However, this design has problems because the speed of the material flow requires the middle electrodes to be offset to "catch" the Faraday currents. As the load varies, the fluid flow speed varies, misaligning the Faraday current with its intended electrodes, and making the generator's efficiency very sensitive to its load.
[edit] Disc generator

Diagram of a Disk MHD generator showing current flows

The third and, currently, the most efficient design is the Hall effect disc generator. This design currently holds the efficiency and energy density records for MHD generation. A disc generator has fluid flowing between the center of a disc, and a duct wrapped around the edge. The magnetic excitation field is made by a pair of circular Helmholtz coils above and below the disk. The Faraday currents flow in a perfect dead short around the periphery of the disk. The Hall effect currents flow between ring electrodes near the center and ring electrodes near the periphery. Another significant advantage of this design is that the magnet is more efficient. First, it has simple parallel field lines. Second, because the fluid is processed in a disk, the magnet can be closer to the fluid, and magnetic field strengths increase as the 7th power of distance. Finally, the generator is compact for its power, so the magnet is also smaller. The resulting magnet uses a much smaller percentage of the generated power.
[edit] Generator efficiency

As of 1994, the 22% efficiency record for closed-cycle disc MHD generators was held by Tokyo Technical Institute. The peak enthalpy extraction in these experiments reached 30.2%. Typical open-cycle Hall & duct coal MHD generators are lower, near 17%. These efficiencies make MHD unattractive, by itself, for utility power generation, since conventional Rankine cycle power plants easily reach 40%. However, the exhaust of an MHD generator burning fossil fuel is almost as hot as the flame of a conventional steam boiler. By routing its exhaust gases into a boiler to make steam, MHD and a steam Rankine cycle can convert fossil fuels into electricity with an estimated efficiency up to 60 percent, compared to the 40 percent of a typical coal plant. A magnetohydrodynamic generator might also be heated by a Nuclear reactor (either fission or fusion). Reactors of this type operate at temperatures as high as 2000 C. By pumping the reactor coolant into a magnetohydrodynamic generator before a traditional heat exchanger an estimated efficiency of 60 percent can be realised. One possible conductive coolant is the molten salt reactor's molten salt, since molten salts are electrically conductive. MHD generators have also been proposed for a number of special situations. In submarines, low speed MHD generators using liquid metals would be nearly silent, eliminating a source of telltale mechanism noise. In spacecraft and unattended locations, low-speed metallic MHD generators have been proposed as highly reliable generators, linked to solar, nuclear or isotopic heat sources.
[edit] Economics

MHD generators have not been employed for large scale mass energy conversion because other techniques with comparable efficiency have a lower lifecycle investment cost. Advances in natural gas turbines achieved similar thermal efficiencies at lower costs, by having the turbine's exhaust drive a Rankine cycle steam plant. To get more electricity from coal, it is cheaper to simply add more low-temperature steam-generating capacity. A coal-fueled MHD generator is a type of Brayton power cycle, similar to the power cycle of a combustion turbine. However, unlike the combustion turbine, there are no moving mechanical parts; the electrically conducting plasma provides the moving electrical conductor. The side walls and electrodes merely withstand the pressure within, while the anode and cathode

conductors collect the electricity that is generated. All Brayton cycles are heat engines. Ideal Brayton cycles also have an ideal efficiency equal to ideal Carnot cycle efficiency. Thus, the potential for high energy efficiency from an MHD generator. All Brayton cycles have higher potential for efficiency the higher the firing temperature. While a combustion turbine is limited in maximum temperature by the strength of its air/water or steam-cooled rotating airfoils; there are no rotating parts in an open-cycle MHD generator. This upper bound in temperature limits the energy efficiency in combustion turbines. The upper bound on Brayton cycle temperature for an MHD generator is not limited, so inherently an MHD generator has a higher potential capability for energy efficiency. The temperatures at which linear coal-fueled MHD generators can operate are limited by factors that include: (a) the combustion fuel, oxidizer, and oxidizer preheat temperature which limit the maximum temperature of the cycle; (b) the ability to protect the sidewalls and electrodes from melting; (c) the ability to protect the electrodes from electrochemical attack from the hot slag coating the walls combined with the high current or arcs that impinge on the electrodes as they carry off the direct current from the plasma; and (d) by the capability of the electrical insulators between each electrode. Coal-fired MHD plants with oxygen/air and high oxidant preheats would probably provide potassium seeded plasmas of about 4200 deg. F, 10 atmospheres pressure, and begin expansion at Mach 1.2. These plants would recover MHD exhaust heat for oxidant preheat, and for combined cycle steam generation. With aggressive assumptions, one DOE-funded feasibility study of where the technology could go, 1000 MWe Advanced CoalFired MHD/Steam Binary Cycle Power Plant Conceptual Design, published in June 1989, showed that a large coal-fired MHD combined cycle plant could attain a HHV energy efficiency approaching 60 percent -- well in excess of other coal-fueled technologies, so the potential for low operating costs exists. However, no testing at those aggressive conditions or size has yet occurred, and there are no large MHD generators now under test. There is simply an inadequate reliability track record to provide confidence in a commercial coal-fueled MHD design. U25B MHD testing in Russia using natural gas as fuel used a superconducting magnet, and had an output of 1.4 megawatts. A coal-fired MHD generator series of tests funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 1992 produced MHD power from a larger superconducting magnet at the Component Development and Integration Facility (CDIF) in Butte, Montana. None of these tests were conducted for long-enough durations to verify the commercial durability of the technology. Neither of the test facilities were in large-enough scale for a commercial unit. Superconducting magnets are used in the larger MHD generators to eliminate one of the large parasitic losses: the power needed to energize the electromagnet. Superconducting magnets, once charged, consume no power, and can develop intense magnetic fields 4 teslas and higher. The only parasitic load for the magnets are to maintain refrigeration, and to make up the small losses for the non-supercritical connections. Because of the high temperatures, the non-conducting walls of the channel must be constructed from an exceedingly heat-resistant substance such as yttrium oxide or zirconium dioxide to retard oxidation. Similarly, the electrodes must be both conductive and heat-resistant at high temperatures. The AVCO coal-fueled MHD generator at the CDIF was tested with water-cooled copper electrodes capped with platinum, tungsten, stainless steel, and electrically conducting ceramics.

[edit] Toxic byproducts

MHD reduces overall production of hazardous fossil fuel wastes because it increases plant efficiency. In MHD coal plants, the patented commercial "Econoseed" process developed by the U.S. (see below) recycles potassium ionization seed from the fly ash captured by the stack-gas scrubber. However, this equipment is an additional expense. If molten metal is the armature fluid of an MHD generator, care must be taken with the coolant of the electromagnetics and channel. The alkali metals commonly used as MHD fluids react violently with water. Also, the chemical byproducts of heated, electrified alkali metals and channel ceramics may be poisonous and environmentally persistent.

[edit] History
Michael Faraday first proposed the idea in his "Bakerian lecture for 1832" to the Royal Society. He carried out experiments at Waterloo Bridge, measuring current from the flow of the Thames in the Earth's magnetic field. The first practical MHD power research was funded in 1938 in the U.S. by Westinghouse in its Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania laboratories, headed by Bela Karlovitz. The initial patent on MHD is by B. Karlovitz, U.S. Patent No. 2,210,918, "Process for the Conversion of Energy", August 13, 1940. World war II interrupted development. In 1962, the First International Conference on MHD Power was held in Newcastle on Tyne, UK by Dr. Brian C. Lindley of the International Research and Development Company Ltd. The group set up a steering committee to set up further conferences and disseminate ideas. In 1964, the group set up a second conference in Paris, France, in consultation with the European Nuclear Energy Agency. Since membership in the ENEA was limited, the group persuaded the International Atomic Energy Agency to sponsor a third conference, in Salzburg, Austria, July 1966. Negotiations at this meeting converted the steering committee into a periodic reporting group, the ILG-MHD (international liaison group, MHD), under the ENEA, and later in 1967, also under the International Atomic Energy Agency. Further research in the 1960s by R. Rosa established the practicality of MHD for fossil-fueled systems. In the 1960s, AVCO Everett Aeronautical Research began a series of experiments, ending with the Mk. V generator of 1965. This generated 35 MW, but used about 8MW to drive its magnet. In 1966, the ILG-MHD had its first formal meeting in Paris, France. It began issuing a periodic status report in 1967. This pattern persisted, in this institutional form, up until 1976. Toward the end of the 1960s, interest in MHD declined because nuclear power was becoming more widely available. In the late 1970s, as interest in nuclear power declined, interest in MHD increased. In 1975, UNESCO became persuaded the MHD might be the most efficient way to utilise world coal reserves, and in 1976, sponsored the ILG-MHD. In 1976, it became clear that no nuclear reactor in the next 25 years would use MHD, so the International Atomic Energy Agency and ENEA (both nuclear agencies) withdrew support from the ILG-MHD, leaving UNESCO as the primary sponsor of the ILG-MHD.
[edit] Serbian development

Over more than a ten year span, Serbian engineers in Bosnia had built the first experimental Magneto-Hydrodynamic facility power generator in 1992. It was here it was first patented.[citation

[edit] U.S. development

In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Energy began a vigorous multiyear program, culminating in a 1992 50MW demonstration coal combustor at the Component Development and Integration Facility (CDIF) in Butte, Montana. This program also had significant work at the Coal-Fired-InFlow-Facility (CFIFF) at University of Tennessee Space Institute. This program combined four parts:
1. An integrated MHD topping cycle, with channel, electrodes and current control units developed by AVCO, later known as Textron Defence of Boston. This system was a Hall effect duct generator heated by pulverized coal, with a potassium ionisation seed. AVCO had developed the famous Mk. V generator, and had significant experience. 2. An integrated bottoming cycle, developed at the CDIF. 3. A facility to regenerate the ionization seed was developed by TRW. Potassium carbonate is separated from the sulphate in the fly ash from the scrubbers. The carbonate is removed, to regain the potassium. 4. A method to integrate MHD into preexisting coal plants. The Department of Energy commissioned two studies. Westinghouse Electric performed a study based on the Scholtz Plant of Gulf Power in Snead, Florida. The MHD Development Corporation also produced a study based on the J.E. Corrette Plant of the Montana Power Company of Billings, Montana.

Initial prototypes at the CDIF were operated for short durations, with various coals: Montana Rosebud, and a high-sulphur corrosive coal, Illinois No. 6. A great deal of engineering, chemistry and material science was completed. After final components were developed, operational testing completed with 4,000 hours of continuous operation, 2,000 on Montana Rosebud, 2,000 on Illinois No. 6. The testing ended in 1993.
[edit] Japanese development

The Japanese program in the late 1980s concentrated on closed-cycle MHD. The belief was that it would have higher efficiencies, and smaller equipment, especially in the clean, small, economical plant capacities near 100 megawatts (electrical) which are suited to Japanese conditions. Open-cycle coal-powered plants are generally thought to become economical above 200 megawatts. The first major series of experiments was FUJI-1, a blow-down system powered from a shock tube at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. These experiments extracted up to 30.2% of enthalpy, and achieved power densities near 100 megawatts per cubic meter. This facility was funded by Tokyo Electric Power, other Japanese utilities, and the Department of Education. Some authorities believe this system was a disc generator with a helium and argon carrier gas and potassium ionization seed. In 1994, there were detailed plans for FUJI-2, a 5MW (electrical) continuous closed-cycle facility, powered by natural gas, to be built using the experience of FUJI-1. The basic MHD design was to be a system with inert gases using a disk generator. The aim was an enthalpy extraction of 30% and an MHD thermal efficiency of 60%. FUJI-2 was to be followed by a retrofit to a 300 MWe natural gas plant.

[edit] Australian development

In 1986, Professor Hugo Karl Messerle at The University of Sydney researched coal-fueled MHD. This resulted in a 28 MWe topping facility that was operated outside Sydney. Messerle also wrote one of the most recent reference works (see below), as part of a UNESCO education program. A detailed obituary for Hugo is located on the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) website.[1]
[edit] Italian development

The Italian program began in 1989 with a budget of about 20 million $US, and had three main development areas:
1. MHD Modelling. 2. Superconducting magnet development. The goal in 1994 was a prototype 2 m long, storing 66 MJ, for an MHD demonstration 8 m long. The field was to be 5 teslas, with a taper of 0.15 T/m. The geometry was to resemble a saddle shape, with cylindrical and rectangular windings of niobium-titanium copper. 3. Retrofits to natural gas powerplants. One was to be at the Enichem-Anic factor in Ravenna. In this plant, the combustion gases from the MHD would pass to the boiler. The other was a 230 MW (thermal) installation for a power station in Brindisi, that would pass steam to the main power plant.

[edit] Chinese development

A joint U.S.-China national programme ended in 1992 by retrofitting the coal-fired No. 3 plant in Asbach. A further eleven-year program was approved in March 1994. This established centres of research in:
1. The Institute of Electrical Engineering in the Academica Sinica, Beijing, concerned with MHD generator design. 2. The Shanghai Power Research Institute, concerned with overall system and superconducting magnet research. 3. The Thermoenergy Research Engineering Institute at the Nanjing's Southeast University, concerned with later developments.

The 1994 study proposed a 10 MW (electrical, 108 MW thermal) generator with the MHD and bottoming cycle plants connected by steam piping, so either could operate independently.
[edit] Russian developments


In 1971 the natural-gas fired U-25 plant was completed near Moscow, with a designed capacity of 25 megawatts . By 1974 it delivered 6 megawatts of power. [2] By 1994, Russia had developed and operated the coal-operated facility U-25, at the High-Temperature Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. U-25's bottoming plant was actually operated under contract with the Moscow utility, and fed power into Moscow's grid. There was substantial interest in Russia in developing a coal-powered disc generator.

[edit] See also

Magnetohydrodynamics Magnetohydrodynamic drive Plasma physics Electromagnetic radiation Electrohydrodynamics Plasma stability Shocks and discontinuities (magnetohydrodynamics) Computational magnetohydrodynamics Ferrofluid MHD sensor Magnetic flow meter Magnetohydrodynamic turbulence Molten salt Electromagnetic pump TRINITY List of plasma (physics) articles

[edit] External links

[edit] Research Magnetohydrodynamics and the Lorentz Force Law MHD generator Research at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (archive) - 2004 Model of an MHD-generator at the Institute of Computational Modelling, Akademgorodok, Russia - 2003 The Magnetohydrodynamic Engineering Laboratory Of The University Of Bologna, Italy - 2003

[edit] References 1. ^ Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) website. 2. ^ Donald G. Fink, H. Wayne Beatty (ed), Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers, 11th Edition, Mc Graw Hill, 1978 ISBN 0-07-020974-X page 11-52 Hugo K. Messerle, "Magnetohydrodynamic Power Generation", 1994, John Wiley, Chichester, Part of the UNESCO Energy Engineering Series (This is the source of the historical and generator design information). Shioda, S. "Results of Feasibility Studies on Closed-Cycle MHD Power Plants", Proc. Plasma Tech. Conf., 1991, Sydney, Australia, pp. 189-200. R.J. Rosa, "Magnetohydrodynamic Energy Conversion", 1987, Hemisphere Publishing, Washington D.C. G.J. Womac, "MHD Power Generation", 1969, Chapman and Hall, London.

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