Thursday, June 19, 2008

Burnin' Wood Solar Style

Solar Dishes aren't normally used to burn wood, but that's exactly how MIT students recently tested their new type of solar energy collector. The wood promptly burst into flames and smoke.

The 12-foot wide dish is based on a design by inventor Doug Wood, who handed over the patent to MIT students, who then built a larger model using the same materials, aluminum tubing and strips of mirror.

The solar dish produces steam by concentrating sunlight up to a factor of 1,000. The mirrors that comprise the panel are cut into perfect parabolic shapes. Each parabola is pointed slightly differently, and is able to transform "pointed" light into strips.

Need a cup of steaming hot water? At the end of a 12-foot aluminum tube rising from the center of the dish is a coil of tubing that has water running through it. The cool water comes in through a hose, and is sent through a receiver tube and into a copper coil black-painted wire. The water is twirled around and around, letting all of the sun's rays burn on the coil. When the water is completely heated, it comes back out the receiver tube as steam.

The invention, as one can imagine, has huge implications for more efficient energy production. Our future cups of hot coffee might just be solar powered.

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