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Made In IBM Labs: Collaboration Aims To Harness The Energy Of 2,000 Suns

To capture the medium grade heat IBM scientists and engineers are utilizing an advanced technology they developed for water-cooled high performance computers, including Aquasar and SuperMUC. With both computers water is used to absorb heat from the processor chips, which is then used to provide space heating for the facilities.

"Microtechnology as known from computer chip manufacturing is crucial to enable such an efficient thermal transfer from the photovoltaic chip over to the cooling liquid," said Andre Bernard, head of the MNT Institute at NTB Buchs. "And by using innovative ways to fabricate these heat transfer devices we aim at a cost-efficient production."

In the HCPVT system, instead of heating a building, the 90 degree Celsius water will be used to heat salty water that then passes through a porous membrane distillation system where it is vaporized and desalinated. Such a system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatt hours per day -- a little less than half the amount of water the average person needs per day according to the United Nations**, but a large installation could provide enough water for a town.

Remarkably, the HCPVT system can also provide air conditioning by means of a thermal driven adsorption chiller. An adsorption chiller is a device that converts heat into cooling via a thermal cycle applied to an absorber made from silica gel, for example. Adsorption chillers, with water as working fluid, can replace compression chillers, which stress electrical grids in hot climates and contain working fluids that are harmful to the ozone layer.

Scientists envision the HCPVT system providing sustainable energy and potable water to locations around the world including southern Europe, Africa, Arabic peninsula, the southwestern part of the United States, South America, and Australia. Remote tourism locations are also an interesting market, particularly resorts on small islands, such as the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, since conventional systems require separate units, with consequent loss in efficiency and increased cost.

A prototype of the HCPVT system is currently being tested at IBM Research - Zurich. Additional prototypes will be built in Biasca and Rueschlikon, Switzerland as part of the collaboration.

*Concentrating Solar Power: Outlook 2009 published by Greenpeace International, SolarPACES and European Solar Thermal Electricity Association

** http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/water/

About AIRLIGHT ENERGYAIRLIGHT ENERGY is a private Swiss company based in Biasca that supplies proprietary technology for large-scale production of electricity using solar power and for energy storage. AIRLIGHT ENERGY has developed an innovative and complete solution for the markets of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). For further information visit www.airlightenergy.com

About IBM ResearchFor more information visit www.research.ibm.com

About ETH ZurichETH Zurich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well-known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for putting its new findings directly into practice. Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich today has some 18,000 students from over 100 different countries, 3,800 of whom are doctoral students. It offers researchers an inspiring working environment and its students a comprehensive education. 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underlining the excellent reputation of the institute.

To learn more about ETH Zurich visit: www.ethz.ch/index_EN.

About Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs NTBFor more information visit www.ntb.ch

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