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The National Institute of Chemistry enhances its reputation in the field of solar absorber coatings with its new achievement

Two lead researchers Ivan Jerman and Franci Merzel, photo: Lea Udovč, STA

The researchers of the National Institute of Chemistry have succeeded in forecasting the lifespan of an industrial absorber coating for concentrating solar power plants, which is of exceptional importance for investors. According to the lead researcher, Ivan Jerman, the achievement strengthens the reputation of the Institute globally and opens new doors to further cooperation.

The Institute has a 10-year tradition of successful accomplishments in the development of spectrally selective coatings. This achievement represents a new milestone which will further enhance the reputation of the Institute on the global scale and open doors for future cooperation. The Institute’s researchers examined the properties of an absorber coating, which the leading industrial partner, the Israeli company BrightSource, uses on future concentrating solar power plants. These plants are said to reduce the price of electric energy. They will thus compete with thermal power plants and become the main source of renewable electric energy in the future.

New experimental approaches

The technology of concentrating solar power plants is based on the collection of solar energy on several square kilometres of surfaces whereby 50,000 mirrors direct and concentrate solar energy in a collector with a surface of 1,000 square metres on an over 200-metre-high tower through Wi-Fi technology.
For the purpose of the research, it was necessary to develop a technology by means of which they were able to simulate conditions in a plant in the laboratory environment. They also developed new experimental approaches for differentiating degradation processes and then described all findings with a unique new mathematical model used for the forecast of a lifespan of the absorber coating.

According to researcher Franci Merzel, the construction of the mathematical model was one of the major challenges and achievements of the project. Additional credibility to the work of Slovenian researchers is contributed by the fact that the study was carried out on the basis of real materials and data obtained from the largest solar power facility in the world, Ivanpah of the aforementioned company in California.
The methodology developed by the researchers may be applied broadly for various materials which reveals a ground-breaking accomplishment. Jerman believes that they did "pioneer work in a way" and have already been invited to participate in new projects. They have also received an enquiry for a similar study from one of the major producers of power generation equipment, Alstom.

 Text: Vesna Žarkovič