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TOPCAT Solar Cell Alignment & Energy Concentration Technology

Sandia National Laboratories

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PDF Document PublicationMarket Sheet (780 KB)

Technology Marketing Summary

This technology is a new technique for parabolic trough mirror alignment based on the use of an innovative Theoretical Overlay Photographic (TOP) approach. It is a variation of current methods used on parabolic dish systems and involves overlay of theoretical images of the Heat Collection Element (HCE) in the mirrors onto carefully surveyed photographic images and adjustment of mirror alignment until they match.


The TOP approach promises to be practical, straightforward, and inherently aligns the mirrors to the HCE. Alignment uncertainty with this technique is predicted to be less than the mirror slope error.

Additionally, a module-to-module alignment method is used to align multiple solar trough concentrators to provide superior optical performance. Any module-to-module misalignment can be corrected by adding the necessary relative module adjustment to the TOP alignment of the module mirrors.

  • Simple, easy to implement tools
  • Increased efficiency & power
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Renewable resource
  • Reduced cost
  • Sustainability advancement
Applications and Industries
  • Clean energy production
  • Electric utility
  • Alternative energy options
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 7,667,833
Alignment method for parabolic trough solar concentrators
A Theoretical Overlay Photographic (TOP) alignment method uses the overlay of a theoretical projected image of a perfectly aligned concentrator on a photographic image of the concentrator to align the mirror facets of a parabolic trough solar concentrator. The alignment method is practical and straightforward, and inherently aligns the mirror facets to the receiver. When integrated with clinometer measurements for which gravity and mechanical drag effects have been accounted for and which are made in a manner and location consistent with the alignment method, all of the mirrors on a common drive can be aligned and optimized for any concentrator orientation.
Sandia National Laboratories 02/23/2010
Patent 8,294,886
Alignment method for solar collector arrays
The present invention is directed to an improved method for establishing camera fixture location for aligning mirrors on a solar collector array (SCA) comprising multiple mirror modules. The method aligns the mirrors on a module by comparing the location of the receiver image in photographs with the predicted theoretical receiver image location. To accurately align an entire SCA, a common reference is used for all of the individual module images within the SCA. The improved method can use relative pixel location information in digital photographs along with alignment fixture inclinometer data to calculate relative locations of the fixture between modules. The absolute locations are determined by minimizing alignment asymmetry for the SCA. The method inherently aligns all of the mirrors in an SCA to the receiver, even with receiver position and module-to-module alignment errors.
Sandia National Laboratories 10/23/2012
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
SD#10161Development - Sandia estimates this technology with a TRL 5. It has been demonstrated that the key elements of this technology have been integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so technology can be tested in a simulated and operational environment. Available - Various license and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property department to discuss.04/09/201003/12/2013

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