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The range of uses for inflatable products never ceases to amaze me, week after week. We’ve covered a good number of these inflatables in this blog, from inflatable tanks to the wonderful inflatable yacht slide. This week, I’ve found an invention that seems to have the potential to trump a lot of other inflatables once it begins actual production. And it follows up where inflatable wind turbines left off.
An article from Energy Matters discusses the new inflatable solar technology being developed by a company called Heliovis that uses a chamber system to generate steam, which in turn becomes electricity:
“Heliotube is an inflatable tubular solar concentrator consisting of two chambers. A small difference in pressure between the upper and lower chamber causes the reflective film in the upper tube to curve downwards, forming a trough. Light travels through the Heliotube’s transparent skin and then reflects off the downward curved mirror film, concentrating the sunlight in the upper chamber on a thermal absorber receiver. Bouncing sunlight in this way focuses the solar radiation by a factor of up to 50.”
The Heliotube system could be a huge boon to the green movement around the world, creating the ability to sustain renewable energy in a number of various areas. It is also a lightweight system, due to its inflatable capabilities, which can make transport quite simple as well. Prototypes are being developed currently:
“Heliovis has already built and operated several prototype concentrators and the company is currently constructing a pilot plant in Dürnrohr, a village in Austria. 40 metres in length with a 1.6 metre aperture, the inflatable solar plant will generate temperatures of up to 320 degrees Celsius and pressures of up to 110 bar.”
Inventions like this show the relevance of inflatables in society, not just for fun in bounce houses, but also for advancing the technology we have begun to create.