Mechanical Engineering ETDs

Publication Date



Concentrating solar power (CSP) is a large field of interest in the renewable energy sector. However, CSP has not yet become as economical as other renewable energy technologies. A possible solution to this issue is the ability to produce efficient and cost-effective solar collectors such as parabolic troughs, heliostats, and parabolic dishes. There are many different areas where costs can be reduced such as using cheaper materials, developing more efficient power cycles, designing better structures, reducing the control system cost, or improving the alignment of the mirrors. The research presented here focuses on the area of mirror alignment. Properly aligned mirrors produce more concentrated solar energy output thereby increasing the thermal efficiency of the entire system. The first purpose of this research is to develop a cost-effective method to analyze gravity deformations in solar collectors. The deformations are found from Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on a true scale model. The second purpose of this research is to study the optical performance of the solar collector after gravity deformation. Ray tracing is used to fully analyze the optical performance of collectors. Together the deformations and beam characterization lead to a useful, cost-effective process to analyze solar collectors. The results of the study show that the simulations presented can accurately match experimental data. The final process allows for design changes to be studied before making a costly prototype.


Solar concentrators--Computer simulation, Surfaces, Deformation of--Computer simulation, Finite element analysis, Ray tracing algorithms.

Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Hall, Chris

Second Committee Member

Ho, Clifford


Sandia National Laboratories

Document Type