Flower Power!

This artificial lotus flower uses sunlight to generate electricity, and creates hot water and purified water as its byproducts.

Don’t cue up the Woodstock album (unless you want to) – it’s not that kind of flower power. I’m talking about an artificial lotus flower that uses sunlight to generate electricity, and creates hot water and purified water as its byproducts.

When you mention solar power, most people think of photovoltaic cells. A lesser-known but equally important method is concentrated solar power (CSP), where a reflective parabolic dish focuses solar energy onto a point. The concentrated heat boils water to run a turbine that generates electricity. Because of its complexity, CSP is typically used for utility-scale applications, leaving photovoltaics and passive solar as the only feasible alternatives for individual households …  until now.

Monarch Power created the innovative Lotus, an inexpensive, portable concentrated solar power station. The Lotus uses biomimicry for both aesthetic and functional purposes. Like the flower for which it’s named, the Lotus consists of “petals” that can be collectively opened and closed on demand. When opened, the petals form a parabolic mirror. During high winds, the petals can be closed to reduce the chance of damaging them. 

Lotus: opened and closed

The Lotus uses concentrated solar power to boil water. The steam runs a steam engine that generates electricity, but it doesn’t stop there. You can put non-potable water into the system and condense the steam that’s generated. In this way, the Lotus can be used to purify and desalinate water. The Lotus can also serve as a water heater for swimming pools and household use. In this video, Professor Joseph Hui, Monarch CEO and President, describes Lotus technology:

In the future, Monarch hopes to see Lotuses set up at highway rest areas, allowing drivers to charge their electric vehicles using free solar power. (My instinct says the plural of Lotus is Loti, but dictionary.com disagrees.) See the following video for more about charging electric vehicles with a Lotus:

Images and videos: Monarch Power