A large-span solar parabolic trough concentrator is designed based on a multilayer polymer mirror membrane mounted on a rotatable concrete structure. The multilayer membrane is contained in a transparent protective air tube and generates a multicircular profile that approaches the trough parabolic shape. An analytical model of the mechanical behavior of the membrane mirror construction coupled to a Monte Carlo ray-tracing simulation is formulated and applied for design and optimization and for elucidating the influence of manufacturing and operational parameter variations on the radiative flux distribution. It is found that the parabolic shape can be well approximated with four stacked membranes that generate an arc-spline of four tangentially adjacent circular arcs. A 45-m-long 9-m-aperture full-scale prototype concentrator was fabricated and experimentation was carried out to validate the simulation model. Highest measured peak solar radiative flux concentration was 18.9, corresponding to 39% of the theoretical maximum value for an ideal parabolic trough concentrator.

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