News about the progress Brilliant Light Power is making in its effort to develop a replacement for fossil fuels comes slowly. As a privately held company, Brilliant Light is under no obligation to report developments and does so only when they have something significant to say. Last week they issued a report outlining some important changes they have made in their efforts to bring their flagship product, the “SunCell,” to the commercial markets.
For those of you coming late to this story, Brilliant Light, after some 25 years of research, has developed a completely new and unknown source of energy based on releasing energy found in a hydrogen atom in the form of light. Brilliant Light’s reaction is chemical, not nuclear, so that there are no harmful side effects or harmful waste left after the energy is released.
There are two distinct stages in the SunCell’s operation. First is the creation of a plasma inside a spherical carbon blackbody radiator. The radiator is heated by the plasma to 3,000 – 3,500K which, when warmed up, can emit up to 500kW of equivalent heat. Although Brilliant Light has been running its SunCell device in a laboratory environment for more than a year, commercialization requires that the SunCell be able to operate reliably under computer control indefinitely without operator intervention.
In its recent report, Brilliant Light says it has overcome many engineering problems that must be solved to automate its device and that the commercialization engineering is mature enough to be completed by a partner company in Boston. The recent report, however, gives no indication as to whether Brilliant Light has yet achieved a fully automated reaction that will run indefinitely with only the addition of hydrogen to sustain the reaction. Once the capability is demonstrated, we will have a better idea of how long it will be until a commercial device reaches the markets.
In earlier reports, Brilliant Light hoped to have prototype devices ready for outside testing before the end of this year. However, the current report is silent on the issue except to say that the new solar cell array will take six months to develop.
The second function of the SunCell is to take the light energy from the blackbody radiator — essentially a gigantic light bulb filament — and turn it into useful energy in the form of electricity, hot gas or hot liquid. Until last April, Brilliant Light had been concentrating on taking the light energy from the blackbody radiator and sending it into a sphere surrounding the radiator built of exotic concentrated photovoltaic chips. These chips are to convert the light energy into electricity in the same manner as a solar panel.
Concentrated photovoltaic chips are not only expensive as compared to run-of-the-mill solar cells, but the amount of heat the cells had to dispose of raised questions as to development time and reliability. Therefore, Brilliant Light decided to begin work on a thermal model with the addition of heat exchanger technology that would be able to deliver 500kW of energy for boiler, hot air or hot water systems. This would not only reduce the manufacturing cost of the SunCell, but it could shorten the time required to get a useful device on the market and increase its reliability as heat exchanger technology is well developed.
In its new report, Brilliant Light says it has contracted with an outside firm to develop two designs for a 500kW thermal radiant boiler that will accept energy from a 3,000K blackbody radiator. One of these systems is to be designed for integration into existing boilers, which would allow customers to “fire” boilers using water as the source of energy.
The major news in the new report is that Brilliant Light has decided to redesign its photovoltaic subsystem so that it will have a larger radius and will use much cheaper and better crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells that will operate at 300-500 suns rather than the 2,000 suns of the earlier design. This will not only reduce the production cost of a SunCell but should speed development and reduce the problem of excess heat. Brilliant Light believes that by using light recycling, 40-50-percent efficiency is possible.
The consensus of the small group of people who understand the potential that a new source of energy has to change civilization and who comment on developments, seems to indicate agreement at Brilliant Light Power’s shift of direction. Most of these observers want to see Brilliant Light Power complete a working prototype as quickly as possible that will verify the validity of the technology beyond any doubt and set the world to thinking about a post-carbon age. They see the decisions to develop a thermal version of the SunCell and to simplify design of the solar cell/electrical as a better and quicker path to working prototypes rather than putting all the company’s eggs in the sophisticated, concentrated photovoltaic basket.
If all goes well, 2018 could be a epoch-making year in the history of mankind.