Solar tracking using beam-steering lens arrays
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Conventional tracking solar concentrators track sunlight by rotating the concentrator optics to face the sun, which adds to the cost and bulk of the system. Beam-steering lens arrays, in contrast, allow solar tracking without bulk rotation of the optics. It consists of lens arrays stacked in an afocal configuration, and tracking is implemented by relative translation between these lens arrays. In this work, we present a phase-space methodology for analyzing and optimizing the performance of the beam-steering, and for revealing optical aberrations in the system. Using this methodology, we develop a beam-steering lens array with simulated ≈70% efficiency across a two-axis ±40° tracking range, and a divergence of the outgoing beam of less than ±0.65°. We also present a functional small-scale prototype and demonstrate the feasibility of the concept for solar tracking. Beam-steering lens arrays can be placed in front of conventional concentrator optics and operated with little or no external tracking. This may enable low-cost robust concentrated solar power systems, and could also find other applications such as solar lighting and steerable illumination.