Physics of Solar Selective Surfaces

  • R. A. Buhrman


It has long been known that the radiative properties of surfaces can vary markedly from one portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to another. Research directed towards the technical development of materials that were strongly absorbing at short wavelengths (visible light) while being highly reflective at longer wavelengths (infrared radiation) extends back at least fifty years. But it is generally agreed that the modern development of selectively absorbing surfaces for solar energy conversion had its origin in the mid-1950’s when Tabor (1955, 1961) and Gier and Dunkle (1955) defined the basic concept of the use of spectral selectivity for the efficient photothermal conversion of solar radiation. The concept was, and remains today, quite straightforward — produce a material that has high absorbance α s over the spectral region in which there is significant solar radiation and has very low emittance ε T in the thermal infrared spectral region. The first practical examples of such selectively absorbing surfaces were also developed at that time (Tabor, 1955; Gier and Dunkle, 1955). An example of the performance of one of the first selective absorbers is shown in Fig. 4.1a. The solar absorptance of this particular material, which was “black nickel” electroplated onto bright nickel plated copper, was α s = 0.901 while it had a thermal emittance ε T = 0.05 at T = 20°C.


Composite Film Composite Coating Absorber Layer Fill Fraction Antireflection Coating 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1986

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  • R. A. Buhrman

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