SkyFuel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collaborate on an ongoing basis and jointly submitted the SkyTrough for consideration. The selection of the SkyTrough marks the first time a parabolic trough collector has been recognized with an R&D 100 Award.
The SkyTrough improves upon prior state-of-the-art parabolic trough concentrating collectors. The most striking difference is that it does not use glass mirrors. Instead, it employs a new mirror system with an advanced material called ReflecTech mirror film as the reflecting surface. SkyFuel co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Randy Gee developed ReflecTech with NREL scientist Gary Jorgensen. The goal was to replace traditional glass mirrors which can shatter under operating conditions, resulting in considerable expense to replace the mirror panels and any receivers damaged by flying glass shards.
The SkyTrough mirrors are constructed using a rib-and-panel design that provides high optical accuracy and results in a mirror surface for each parabolic trough module that is continuous from rim to rim. The ReflecTech mirrors are the most visible technology improvement, but the departure from traditional glass reflectors also facilitated other significant advances to the SkyTrough to reduce cost and improve reliability.These improvements include a lightweight aluminum space frame that rapidly assembles in the field and a robust helical drive and wireless controller for tracking the sun.
About the awards:
Winners of the R&D 100 Awards are selected by an independent judging panel and the editors of R&D Magazine. Since 1963, the R&D 100 Awards have identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market. These include the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), Taxol anticancer drug (1993), and HDTV (1998).