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Solar Thermal: Facilities

Non-Imaging Optics Lab

Concentrators using nonimaging optics (anidolic) have proven to be the most effective for solar applications. Their design resembles a classical image forming system; however, they possess a very large numerical aperture, and would therefore have very large aberrations if used in an image forming apparatus. To date, their efficiency is unsurpassed and can be designed and fabricated to approach theoretical limits.

The nonimaging optics laboratory (NIOL) at UC Merced engages in the design, development and testing of solar concentrators for photovoltaic and solar thermal system applications. The laboratory is located at the UC Merced Castle Center in Atwater, California and includes over 2 acres of open land that is ideally situated for outdoor testing. 

NIOL is currently constructing an operations center for its outdoor testing facility that will utilize nonimaging, concentrating optics in conjunction with a solar thermal loop and a double effect chilling system to cool the structure during the summer months. 

NIOL is also expanding its capacity to engage in computer facilitated modeling of optical designs. Researchers will have a centralized access to modeling programs and the opportunity to work collaboratively with other modelers in the development of systems based on anidolic principles.