Genius Foci mosaic paving

 

Genius Foci mosaic Fresnel reflector

 

Large Solar Array using Fresnel principle

 

Fresnel Lens

 

Simplest Fresnel mosaic reflector

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Design

Genius Foci is a decorative concentrating solar reflector system. It is as much a design process as it is a product. It’s purpose is to increase and balance the energy input of solar collectors using structures and materials that give versatile sculptural aesthetic options.

Genius Foci adapts the concept of a Fresnel mirror to make paving and cladding tiles that create sophisticated solar concentration regimes that can be designed and tuned for the specific geometric layouts of a site. This allows an extraordinary degree of design sensitivity to existing features. This approach opens each design iteration to fresh interpretation that can include the particular needs of each new place.

Each Genius Foci installation is site-specific and forms a hard landscape element or architectural feature that works in tandem with solar collectors such as the Fluent Pillar or SolOpticon. The reflector consists of groundworks and structures that carry sets of facing tiles that can be set onto the ground or mounted on walls. Each tile is a portion of a larger, complete Fresnel reflector. The reflective orientations of the components are calculated in a 3D CAD environment as a whole, which are then cut into manageable units that can be manufactured and handled in situ.

They are installed as paving and/or wall facing tiles. Each tile is faceted to reflect light the desired direction. When in situ the tiles act in concert to reflect light into a pre-defined concentration zone, occupied by the solar collector elements. The cast tiles can be used directly as paving and facing, or they can be specified to act as formers to carry and orient small mosaic tiles, for decorative effect. The tiles may be walked on.

It is very simple in principle, but in practice this solution has only become possible with the advent of 3D modelling and 3D printing technology. The use of 3D printing gives a huge amount of versatility in the forms and patterns that can be used, and there is no additional tooling overhead created by using unique forms. So we can be very creative and subtle in our use of form, from simple, clean geometric concentric orientations, to complex organic and biomimetic shapes.

History/Narrative

“When you consider that environment is as much part of the design as the device itself, then design becomes about finding and articulating existing relationships in beautiful ways, it means co-operating with, or just tidying up what nature is already doing”
Dan Hughes-McGrail

A key issue with solar energy systems is that the energy source varies greatly across the day and the year, with high peaks and deep troughs. This is a challenge to solar energy usage, as we require steady and reliable energy supply in a domestic setting.

Traditional panels perform poorly in this respect and solve the issue by over-specifying the output capacity of each installation, so that there is enough energy at the lowest point on the cycle. This means that in high summer the collector produces far more energy than the system can use. The transfer circuits are stopped to prevent overheating the domestic system and the collectors are left to heat up, reaching very high and damaging temperatures The excess heat is irresponsibly retransmitted into the local environment, warming it even further and creating a hazard for any living thing that goes near it.

In sustainability terms this approach reduces the lifespan of each part, decrease regional albedo, increases local ambient temperatures (adding to the cooling power load) and is wasteful in that it requires that more components are manufactured per installation.

In order to solve these issues, Solaesthetic set out to create a way to adjust energy output profiles by using concentrating reflectors boost the parts of the day and the seasons in which the sun is low in the sky and to clip out the most extreme peaks. The purpose is to provide designs that provide adequate output without the need to overheat. Thus solving multiple problems at once:
Decreasing heat stress on the system components to increase longevity
Achieve temperature that are not hazardous to organisms
Generate heat without reducing local albedo
Reduce the material consumption by reducing quantity of collector units per installation

The desirable concentration zone for a concentrator is not a straightforward single focal point, if this were the case, then the fixed geometry would create an extremely intense point of energy, once a day. The energy output profile we desire is tuned for the desired pattern of energy consumption. We seek to boost energy when the sun is low in the sky and clip the most extreme peaks so we don’t have overheating problems that stress the collectors and reduce longevity.

Technical

Genius Foci uses 3D digital modelling to calculated the precise orientation of the reflecting mosaic facets, in relation to both the architecture of the site, and the sun’s path through the sky, so that the radiation levels in the collection zone are elevated at the desired times of day.

The process begins with creating a 3D simulation model of the solar installation based on a site laser scanned survey. All of the proposed solar structures, groundworks and architectural elements are built within the simulation environment. environmental factors are included, like the suns path through the sky at that particular latitude.

The specific form of the components that carry the mosaic tiles (carrier slabs) are then inferred from the simulated structures and parameters of the concentration zone that we chose for that site. The carrier slab shapes are thus calculated uniquely for the particulars of each place.

Carrier Slab formers are created as ‘Boolean’ imprints of the aforementiuoned calculated forms and thus we have a collection of mould models. The subsequent manufacturing process takes advantage of 3D printing to produce all the individual mould parts, which are then used to cast ceramic, concrete or reconstituted stone tiles (on-site if needs be).
The tiles are then installed in accordance with standard building practices.