Sandia National Labs uses balloons to test dust particle safety for solar-powered technology


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Sandia National Labs is using giant balloons to test the safety of new solar-powered technology. Sandia reports that the new technology, falling particle receiver works by dropping dark, sand-like particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight and then storing the particles.

Researchers used 22-foot-wide tethered balloons in order to collect samples of airborne dust particles to test the safety of the solar-powered technology. According to a press release from Sandia National Laboratories, the study is not hazardous.

This renewable energy is referred to as concentrating solar power. While concentrating solar power is not as common as solar panels or wind turbines, it offers several advantages over other resources including the ability to store energy in the form of heat before converting it into electricity for the power grid.

Sandia National Labs explains that the falling particle receiver uses round particles that cost about $1 for 2.2 pounds however, the Sandia team also evaluated other particles like sand that only cost a few centers per pound. A press release indicates that re-used particles can eventually break down into find dust and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulate tiny dust particles that are known to potentially cause risks for lung damage.

“The motivation for doing particle sampling was to make sure that this new technology for renewable energy wasn’t creating any environmental or worker-safety issues,” said lead researcher on the project Cliff Ho in a press release. “There are particles being emitted from the falling-particle receiver, but the amounts are well below the standards set by the EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.”

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