parabolic trough collector
Parabolic trough system. Image courtesy of SunLabs, Dept. of Energy.
A parabolic trough collector is a type of concentrating solar collector that uses U-shaped troughs to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver tube, containing a working fluid such as water, which is positioned along the focal line of the trough. Sometimes a transparent glass tube envelops the receiver tube to reduce heat loss. Parabolic troughs often use single-axis or dual-axis tracking. In rare instances, they may be stationary. Temperatures at the receiver can reach 400°C. The heated working fluid may be used for medium temperature space or process heat, or to operate a steam turbine for power or electricity generation. In California, multi-megawatt power plants were built using parabolic troughs combined with gas turbines.