Originally posted on Gigaom:
The solar mirrors that BrightSource Energy is mounting on trackers in California’s Mojave Desert run 7.2 meters by 10.5 meters. That’s hundreds of times larger than a new kind of tiny solar mirror that energy tinkerer Saul Griffith is working on, which stretches no bigger than 5 centimeters by 5 centimeters and is meant to sit on little tubular trackers that are no taller than a toothpick.
Griffith showed off this solar mirror and tracker concept at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco Tuesday, and at first glance it is hard to imagine how the concept will translate into a marketable solar energy system later. The idea is in such an early stage of development that Griffith, an inventor who is working on several cleantech ideas through his Otherlab incubator, sounded a tad regretful when I pressed him for details after his talk: “I shouldn’t have shown it.”
Griffith and a couple members of his team are exploring how to reduce the cost of generating solar electricity by shrinking the size of the reflector system and figuring out ways to make them with cheaper materials and production processes. It’s the same goal for many academic researchers and solar companies today. In fact, Google (s GOOG) also experimented with using small mirrors and trackers in its quest to engineer a more productive system and cheaper electricity, but the company abandoned the project last year.