The goal of this work is to demonstrate that high performance solar reflective material can be produced in a roll format using vacuum deposition techniques. The material consists of a multilayer thin film stack on a substrate. The essential feature of the film stack is an alumina film several microns thick deposited over a silver film. The alumina film is deposited under high vacuum using a physical vapor deposition technique called ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD). The alumina film is optically transparent, scratch resistant, and durable. Its purpose is to protect the silver film and maintain high optical reflectance.
Work on this reflective material began five years ago. Samples were produced on polyester substrates by batch coating. Those samples showed excellent durability in accelerated testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden Colorado. The principal limitation to commercialization of the process was a low alumina deposition rate. Over the past three years the alumina deposition rate has been increased from 1 nm/s to 20 nm/s.
The next step is to produce material in a roll format. A roll coater has been built to process 30.48-cm wide rolls of solar reflective material. A steel strip with a highly specular surface finish will be used as the web material. The advantage of this material compared to polyester is that it withstands a higher process temperature and lowers final product installation costs. A major technical challenge will be to reproduce high reflector durability in a continuous, high rate process.