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Rawlemon's beautiful, spherical solar energy generators

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January 14, 2014

Rawlemon has designed an aesthetic take on  solar power devices

Rawlemon has designed an aesthetic take on solar power devices

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Despite their noble cause of harnessing clean, renewable energy from the sun, solar panels tend to be aesthetically uninspiring. Solar start-up Rawlemon aims to change all that with a new, and undeniably beautiful, take on concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology.

Created by Andre Broessel, a German architect inspired by his daughter’s toy marbles, the Rawlemon design uses a spherical lens to concentrate sunlight on a small photovoltaic panel and combines this with a dual-axis pivot that tracks the movement of the sun.

According to the designer the transparent sphere is able collect and concentrate diffuse where traditional devices cannot and as well as providing an efficiency boost, they can be used in far more locations than their flat, fixed counterparts. It's also claimed that by concentrating the sun’s light in one area, the Rawlemon design reduces the solar cell surface required to just 1 percent of that required by a traditional panel.

Rawlemon aims to bring a range of devices to market starting with the 10-cm (3.9-in) Beta.ey S phone charger, which it is currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign. The funds raised are earmarked for the production and certification of the Beta.ey S. The charger is compatible with any phone that uses a USB 2.0 charging port and has a battery storage capacity of 27.5 Whr.

The Beta.ey S and the Beta.ey S Special Edition are Rawlemon's phone charger models

The Beta.ey S and the Beta.ey S Special Edition are Rawlemon's phone charger models

As well as a Bet.ey S Special Edition and a Beta.ey XL designed for charging tablets, Rawlemon has some larger devices in its portfolio. The 100-cm (39.4-in) Beta.ray 1.0 will generate up to 1.1 kWh a day, which is enough to run a laptop for about two days. It has a 1.8 kWh battery.

The largest device in the Rawlemon range is the 180-cm (70.1-in) Beta.ray 1.8 that will generate up to 3.4 kWh a day, enough to run your laptop for almost a week. It has a 5.4 kWh battery. Both the Beta.ray 1.0 and 1.8 feature water-filled acrylic-polymer lenses, as opposed to the solid lenses of their smaller siblings, plus they generate thermal energy as well as solar.

Rawlemon is also developing a system it calls Microtrack, that uses the same technology but is installed as a building skin. Microtrack will will produce energy during the day and can be used as a multimedia display at night.

Beta.ey is planned for release later this year and will be followed by the Beta.ray next year. Rawlemon estimates that the Microtrack system will take three years to bring to market.

The design is a thing of beauty, but does it stack up as being more effective than flat PVs or other concentrator designs? Those water-filled spheres must be heavy after all. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Rawlemon video pitch is below.

Source: Rawlemon

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
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18 Comments

I think that makes going green fashionable and cool. I like the smaller ones. The bigger ones would be cool for small homes too since it could - potentially - let the home owner go 'off grid'.

BigWarpGuy
15th January, 2014 @ 07:00 am PST

Pretty, but how much does it weigh? What is it made of? How much does it cost to produce?

Matthew Bailey
15th January, 2014 @ 08:33 am PST

Nice - Solar PV with Apple aesthetics :)

Devices we use and see all the time better be beautiful - of course, they also should work well. Let's hope this one does both.

moreover
15th January, 2014 @ 08:50 am PST

We have tried several times to communicate with this company and they answer once to your inquiry and when you ask more questions in a reply they do not answer, especially to wholesale inquiries.

Richie Suraci
15th January, 2014 @ 09:24 am PST

Have you ever have one of those sealed thermometers that have the floating colored spheres in them? I'm no scientist or engineer, but what happens when the algae starts to grow in the water?

scottm
15th January, 2014 @ 09:37 am PST

I love the looks of it. And if it can provide more energy than standard panels at a lower price, its a winner. Ship compasses use oil instead of water to prevent algae growth.

ezeflyer
15th January, 2014 @ 11:14 am PST

I would check the embodied energy it takes to make the unit-make sure it less than what will be produced by it, otherwise, its taking more energy from the planet, not giving it back.

ADVENTUREMUFFIN
15th January, 2014 @ 11:17 am PST

BS, Adventuremuffin. At some point in any production, there is a break-even (where the energy used to produce is equal to the energy saved from the product). Thus, at some point the product helps the environment. You know this, so why are you trying to post a negative about solar energy? Who do you work for? Who's interest are you trying to protect?

Chris Culpepper
15th January, 2014 @ 12:48 pm PST

Wow, Chris. Can't he be looking out for the planet? Personally, I like my coffee cup; but I know that the energy to make and destroy that single plastic cup is greater than if I used a thousand paper cups. My energy break-even point on that single cup won't be for 4 or 5 years, and I know that cup isn't going to make it.

Right now alternative energy is still at that same point. The financial and energy upside are further down the road than the equipment will last. Do it if you want, tell yourself you're doing something good, but don't tell yourself you're saving money or energy.

lnjvand
15th January, 2014 @ 01:39 pm PST

These negative comments are made by naive people with little knowledge. And questions like "..but how much does it weigh? What is it made of? How much does it cost to produce? -> is it relevant to this article? Just say whether you appreciate the idea or not and give good arguments to support what you say.

I find this a refreshingly good idea, from the perspective of esthetics as well as efficiency, so different from the usually available flat solar panels. I think it's a sure winner.

Gizreader
15th January, 2014 @ 02:10 pm PST

Looks interesting. The rapid decline in the price of photovoltaics does hurt the chances of a concentrated solar project, but if Broessel can find a way to give it both a competitive price point and a nice long lifespan without the need for costly replacements/maintenance (an issue pv panel systems have been marred by), he might be on to something.

Currently, I don't think $150 is going to be competitive enough for the smallest model, but larger models may be cheaper to produce per kWh depending on the materials & processes used.

Nick Combs
15th January, 2014 @ 06:12 pm PST

I've been thinking the same thing for years. Solar panels would sell at a much higher rate if they were more aesthetically pleasing. Who cares for silicone blue? I know there would be a reduction in power output if the appearances were altered (probably using inert gas) to blend in or contrast in hue with the particual color of the shingles of one's home. But I think this power reduction would not only be minimal but greatly offset by sales volume. It's mostly the honey's, not the guy's who decide on home purchases, upgrade's. But the design engineers apparently don't get it. Until you get the ladies to like the look's & compare colors you can forget about sales. Look's, SELL. These developers can have a 15% increase in power output tomorrow on a panel line & the panels will stay on the shelves.

But as to this concept here, my idea is the same except for shape. Mine was to have this on the ground, or balcony, upright, in a cylinder form, not a sphere. Much more surface area! Again, more aesthetically pleasing. You could have various sizes, unplug the smaller ones.....take on camping trips.......

noteugene
15th January, 2014 @ 06:54 pm PST

Great article on Solar Power Project. Thanks for sharing

Keep Posting the Good Stuff!!

SelectiveFinancialServices
16th January, 2014 @ 05:00 am PST

Beautiful Sculpture! Poor solar power design. A spherical concentrator does not focus as well as most other concentrator designs. Possibly that's why the article comments that it also works with diffuse light sources, which also can't be focused. Still, it's an interesting artistic design, which might be useful publicity for solar power for those who mostly love art. Also, the use of a spherical shape means that the pointing angle will be less affected by high winds, which might decrease the cost of the pointing mechanism.

Bob80303
16th January, 2014 @ 10:02 am PST

Of course, this design would work equally as well without the water.

Use alumized Mylar to make 1/2 of the inner surface of the sphere mirrored.

Then the suntracker on the armature just keeps the photovoltaic panel in the hot spot where the sunlight is concentrated.

The difference between a true Parabolic reflector and a spherical reflector is meaningless here.

You COULD focus the spot down tighter, but then you have to fight the tendency to burn out your PV panel.

The only advantages to using water are that 1) it looks pretty, and 2) it’s so DANGED heavy when full of water that a tornado would hesitate to pick this thing up.

The water would need to be purified and treated with an algaecide, but that’s fairly easy.

The problem, of course, is that you’d need thousands of them to get serious power. And the weight of the water would make roof-tops a poor location.

Re-design this without the water.

Maybe the chicks don’t “dig” parabolic reflector troughs, but you could cover an entire parking garage with them.

William Carr
20th January, 2014 @ 09:05 am PST

Water filled!? Write off any portion of the world where the temperature drops below freezing!

Brian W. Allan
20th January, 2014 @ 11:03 am PST

"lnjvand" says: "The financial and energy upside are further down the road than the equipment will last". This can only be his uninformed opinion, because the facts say otherwise.

Xander77
7th February, 2014 @ 01:56 pm PST

Hope you don't have any trees shedding leaves/needles or a paperboy with bad aim.Acrylic/ Glass spheres will start fires proper quick.

Reagan Smith
22nd May, 2014 @ 09:26 am PDT
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