News Brief

New Nanomaterial Could Dramatically Improve Concentrating Solar

A team of researchers at UC–San Diego has developed a silicon-based material with 90% conversion efficiency and remarkable durability.

Performance of the Multi-scaled Coating

The spectrally selective nanocoating aims to create a "black hole" for sunlight; the illustration shows it outperforms conventional coatings significantly as temperatures increase.

Image courtesy Renkun Chen, UC–Davis
Researchers at the University of California–San Diego have designed a silicon-based coating they claim features 90% conversion efficiency for concentrating solar power (CSP), a solar thermal technology used at the industrial scale to create steam for turbine-generated power.

The material includes a variety of sizes of nano-scale silicon borides, resulting in what the researchers call a “multi-scaled” coating structure. This scaling, they claim, dramatically reduces reflectance when compared with typical CSP coatings. “We want the black hole of sunlight,” said Sungho Jin, Ph.D., an engineering professor at UC–San Diego and one of the material’s developers.

The material is also remarkably durable, the researchers say, and capable of withstanding temperatures up to 700ºC (1,292ºF)—important because efficiency of CSP technologies increases exponentially with temperature. This durability also protects the coating from “thermal oxidation,” a type of premature aging resulting from the high temperatures of CSP equipment operation. By reducing thermal oxidation, the coating could prevent the need for annual CSP-plant shutdowns while receiving equipment is re-coated.

The research was funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program. The researchers reported on the two key properties of the new coating—absorption and oxidation resistance—in a recent issue of Nano Energy.

Published December 1, 2014

Melton, P. (2014, December 1). New Nanomaterial Could Dramatically Improve Concentrating Solar. Retrieved from

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December 15, 2014 - 10:03 am

Wouldn't this coating get dirty really quickly?

December 15, 2014 - 10:10 am

Frederic, I'm not sure why it would get dirty any faster than a typical coating. Can you say more?

December 15, 2014 - 4:38 pm

The article has been corrected to reflect that Sungho Jin is at UC–San Diego, like the rest of the team that developed this material.