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Parabolic dish concentrators
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Dishes are great for concentrating dispersed energy to a focal point. Take a look at any residential neighborhood, and you are bound to see a menagerie of dishes (the state flower of Virginia) sticking out of the side of houses everywhere! What do you think these dishes are doing Acting as concentrators! They take the waves emitted from satellites far above the earth s surface, and concentrate them into a focal point which strengthens the signal. Similarly, you might have seen some of the world s great radio telescopes perched up high upon hillsides. These are doing exactly the same thing, taking the signal from a wide area, and focusing it down to a small point. They are concentrating the weak signals from outer space to a fine point where they can be processed. Solar concentrators using parabolic dishes are exactly the same, the difference being the medium used to coat the dishes. Rather than being reflective to radio waves, the coatings used to coat a parabolic solar reflector are mirrors. Again this idea is not particularly new, in fact, back in the 1800s a Frenchman by the name of Augustin Mouchot was actively experimenting with using solar dishes to concentrate the sun s energy. Mouchot was concerned that coal was all going to be used up and that Peak Coal was approaching. He said at that time Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion . . . Coal will undoubtedly be used up. One of Mouchot s solar concentrators can be seen in Figure 8-10. A little later in 1882, Abel Pifre, Mouchot s assistant, demonstrated a printing press in the Tuilleries Garden, Paris, powered by the sun, using a 3.5 m diameter concave concentrating dish. At the focus of this concentrating furnace,
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Figure 8-9 Board with mirrors stuck on starting to take shape!
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Parabolic Dish Concentrators
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Figure 8-10 One of Mouchot s solar furnace dishes.
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was a steam boiler which provided steam for the printing press. A woodcut drawing of this press is shown in Figure 8-11. Dishes are great for concentrating dispersed energy to a focal point (Figure 8-12a and b). Take a look at Figure 8-13 which shows parallel rays of light, entering a parabola and being focused to a point.
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If you want a cheap source for a solar parabolic mirror, the University of Oxford produce a solar energy kit (Figure 8-14), which is inexpensive, and comes with a budget plastic parabolic mirror.
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Figure 8-11 Pifre s solar printing press.
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Figure 8-12a and b Parabolic mirrors take incoming parallel light (from the sun) and focus it to a point.
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Parabolic Dish Concentrators
Figure 8-13 Diagram showing how parabolas focus light to a point.
Project 17: Build Your Own Parabolic Concentrator
Figure 8-14 University of Oxford solar energy kit.
Project 17: Build Your Own Parabolic Dish Concentrator
You will need
Old satellite dish Bathroom/kitchen tile adhesive Small mirror tiles
This is an incredibly easy way to make a parabolic dish concentrator, and even better, it recycles old stuff! Take a satellite dish, and dunk your adhesive comb into the bathroom/kitchen tile adhesive. Working from the center of the dish outwards, spread the adhesive using the comb side of the spreader. What the comb does is apply the adhesive in a ridged manner, this means that when you press the tiles into the adhesive, they have room to settle and even themselves out. If you just apply straight flat adhesive, when you try to push the tiles in, adhesive will ooze out everywhere and make a mess. As you work from the center, keep adding more tiles, trying as best you can to keep them in line with the plane of the parabolic satellite dish.
Tools
Adhesive comb Spreader
Note
You need to purchase some tile adhesive the sort of stuff you would use when applying ceramic tiles onto your walls at home. You will need to choose a tile adhesive which is waterproof, as a non-waterproof tile adhesive will not stand outside use for this purpose kitchen/bathroom adhesive is strongly recommended.
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