Solar Power: From Simple to Sophisticated


My neighbor just put up one of those old fashioned clothes lines.  It seemed a bit of an eye sore when I first saw it there, the metal pole holding up a spiderweb-like array in the middle of her lawn.  "The dryer uses a lot of electricity," she explained.  Her simple use of the sun made a lot of sense.  I briefly considered getting one myself – but I knew I’d have trouble actually using it.   Her sheets waving like flags were a salute to the ‘good old days’ when technology was simpler… and perhaps in some ways smarter.  I just read an interesting article on Dailytech.com about the potential use of the sun’s energy (besides solar powered web hosting, of course!).  A group of MIT students have created a solar array that can melt steel! Check it out:

MIT Students Develop Revolutionary Solar Dish That is Hot Enough to Melt Steel

 The solar industry is booming.  With waves of investment and grants, the solar power industry is for the first time becoming a serious business.  New power plants will soon be pumping power out to consumers, while other firms market to sell panels directly to the consumer, providing them with a more direct means of experiencing solar energy.

8451_Mirror_1.jpg

There are many forms of solar power technology.  Today the most dominant is photo-voltaics, which comprise the traditional solar panels that come to mind when one thinks of solar power.  However, there are other promising ways of capturing the sun’s energy that are merely less developed.

MIT Solar mirror

The dish is composed of a set of 10 inch by 12 foot curved mirrors, like the one seen here. The students easily mount the mirrors to the aluminum framework using simple hardware like washers and zip ties.  (Source: MIT)

The mirrors incredible power makes short work of a beam of wood, disintegrating it in flames and smoke. The focal point can melt steel.  (Source: MIT)
New solar dish from MIT concentrates sunlight intensely enough to melt steel.

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