In recent years, much effort has been concentrated on transitioning from the usage of fossil fuels to completely renewable energy. One of the ways in which we are going to achieve completely renewable energy is by utilizing the sun, the greatest sustainable source of energy. One obstacle that is preventing us from truly exploiting the sun's immense energy is how inefficiently the solar panels we use today convert the sun's energy into electricity. Luckily, there is a potential solution. Rawlemon, a solar energy company started by a German architect named Andre Broessel, has been working on a spherical solar energy generator that is potentially more efficient than a standard solar panel.  Broessel believes this glass sphere could possibly be the future for solar energy.
The spherical sun power generator prototype Rawlemon created is called the "beta.ray". This generator will combine spherical geometry principles with a dual axis sun tracking system. The glass sphere is used to concentrate diffused sunlight into a small surface of tiny solar panels. The ball lens is able to concentrate and diffuse light on one small focal point, which means less material used to create solar cells and also more efficiency. The "beta.ray" is a take on concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology, which uses multiple optical elements - such as mirrors and lenses - to reflect light into a super concentrated beam that is aimed at a solar cell.  The "beta.ray" has a surface of tiny photovoltaic panels, also known as the collector, which is mounted on a dual axis tracking system, which travels with the sun in order to face the sun perpendicularly at all times.  It does this to maximize the conversion efficiency of the sun's rays. By having this tracking system constantly moving the collector to maximize efficiency, the spherical sun power generator can double the yield of a conventional solar panel in a much smaller surface area. The yield would be similar compared to a conventional solar panel with a tracking system but according to Rawlemon, those tracking systems are much more expensive and vulnerable to weather. How much better his tracking system is, or how true his claims are, we are not sure. The "beta.ray" is apparently even able to concentrate moonlight unlike conventional solar panels, but the power output from moonlight is very minimal at best.
There are many different applications the spherical sun power generator can be used for. These include electric car charging stations, energy producing windows, autonomous power generators, etc. If developed even more, Rawlemon technologies could be used for solar hybrid power plants. There are even miniature versions of the "beta.ray", called the "beta.ey" that can be used to charge smartphones.  Another potential application of the beta.ray technology is to integrate them into the walls of buildings, serving as windows and energy producers at the same time. By doing this, there will not be a need to cover buildings with conventional solar panels and the "beta.rays" will offer a dual purpose functionality, which decreases cost.
The spherical sun power generator sounds like a fantastic idea that could potentially help in the transition from fossil fuels to complete renewable energy. However, with the lack of development and research of "beta.ray" technology, we are quite a long way from these solar spheres becoming a reality.
© Matt Klassen. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 J. Flaherty, "This Phone Charger Uses Crystal Orbs to Focus the Sun's Rays," Wired Magazine, 31 Jan 14.
 L. J. Young, "Concentrator Photovoltaics: The Next Step Towards Better Solar Power," IEEE Spectrum, 31 Aug 15.