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Solar Collectors

Elvin Infante

The University of the Sunshine Coast


Elvin Infante: 1044435

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Introduction.........................................................................1

2 Aim...................................................................................... 1
3 Theory.................................................................................1
3.1 General.....................................................................................1
3.2 Solar Collector Design...............................................................2

4 Method................................................................................3
5 Results and Discussion..........................................................4
5.1 Discussion of Results.................................................................4
5.2 Possible Improvements..............................................................6
5.2.1 Overall Experiment................................................................................ 6
5.2.2 Solar Collector........................................................................................ 6

6 Conclusion............................................................................ 7
Appendix A............................................................................... 8
Appendix B..................................................................................................
9

INTRODUCTION

Over time there has been an increasing interest in renewable energy sources with much
if this interest spurred by the need for our society to move past fossil fuels and look to
other sources that will help to achieve a more sustainable way of life. One of these
sources is solar energy. Solar collectors transform solar radiation from the sun into heat
energy of which is transferred to medium and converted to useable energy to be applied
to any number of everyday things. This report will discuss the results obtained from an
experiment, which entails a solar collector heating a piece of copper and will aim to
relate the results to the fundamentals behind solar radiation conversion.

AIM

The aim of this practical is to determine the heating characteristics of a dish type solar
collector using a piece of copper as the absorber. The experiment will focus on the
maximum temperature and the power output as a function of temperature to
demonstrate the theories that have been learnt.

THEORY

3.1 General
In an ideal situation, it should be observed that at some point in time during the
experiment, a balance between the rate at which energy from the sun is absorbed by the
copper, the rate at which the copper heats up and the rate at which heat is radiated from

the copper to the surrounding environment will be achieved. This balance signifies that
the system is working at its maximum efficiency where by the copper is being heated
effectively by the system. This scenario is expressed in the following equation:

As
the
system
moves beyond this point,
the
overall
efficiency should decrease
and as a result the amount and rate of change in temperature. As time elapses and the
setup reaches its maximum temperature, it should be apparent that the power absorbed
by the copper equals that of the power emitted by the solar collector as the temperature
has plateaued thus indicating that no further heating is experienced by the copper.

3.2 Solar Collector Design


In order to meet the specifications of this experiment, a dish type solar collector design
was adopted. The dish type solar collector is, as the name states, a disk that reflects the
incoming energy to one point its focal point. Optimizing the design so that the focal
point is focused on the absorber is key to reducing the amount of wasted energy. Another
crucial factor is the overall construction of the system, as a poorly constructed system
may result in the energy being reflected away from the absorber, thus it is critical that
the curve of the dish is smooth and is stays true to its intended parabolic shape. Figure
1 below shows the way in which a dish type collector works, with Figure 2 showing the
actual collector that was used.

Figure 1 - Typical Dish Type Solar Collector

METHOD

The following points Figure 2 - Solar Collector Used for


procedure that was Practical
achieve the goals of

describe
the
undertaken
to
the experiment.

1. The focal point was determined by the use of a piece of paper that was held
above the centre of the dish and moved up and down. This indicated the size of
the area of focus thus the optimal position to position the piece of copper.
2. The piece of copper was mounted into position.
3. An ambient temperature reading was recorded in the shade prior to attaching the
thermocouple to the mounted piece of copper, making sure that it was in contact
with the copper.
4. The solar collector was positioned in a central position beneath the heating lamp.
5. The heating lamp and timer were started instantaneously with temperature
readings being recorded at 15-second intervals.
6. The data was compiled and placed into tables of which were used to form graphs
of the resulting data and calculations.
There were two graphs formed of which included a Temperature vs Time and Efficiency
( ) vs Temperature. In order to achieve efficiency PHEATING was first determined
using the following equation:
(Eq.1)
where:

PHEATING

is the heating power being experienced by the copper

m is the mass of the copper

c is the specific heat of the copper

dT
dt is the instantaneous rate of change of temperature over time

This equation was then used to determine the solar collectors efficiency throughout the
heating process with the use of the following efficiency equation:
(Eq.2)

where:

is the efficiency at any point during the heating process

is the heating coefficient

I is the intensity of the source

ACOLL is the cross sectional area of the piece of metal

In order to determine the gradients to the curve formed from plotting Temperature over
Time, calculus was used. Firstly an expression for the curve was derived using Microsoft
Excel, following this the derivative to the curve was solved and x values were
substituted which outputted the gradient of the curve for that value of x.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

5.1 Discussion of Results


This section discusses the results that were obtained as a result of conducting the
experiment and delves into the meanings of these outcomes and any unexpected
occurrences. Table 1 below shows the variables used through the practical.

Table 1 - List of Variables


Variables Used
Mass (m)
Specific Heat Copper (c)

0.0112kg
386J/kg C

Absorption Coefficient ( )

0.95

Reflectivity (r)

0.9

Intensity (I)

800 W/m2

Area Collector (A)

0.45m2

Table 2 below summarises the results achieved from the experiment.

Table 2 - Summary of Results


Temperatu
27
47.6
61.1
73.1
83.7
93.0
101.1
118.8
128.6

0.526
0.473
0.423
0.376
0.331
0.289
0.25
0.149
0.072

-0.053
-0.05
-0.047
-0.045
-0.042
-0.039
-0.101
-0.077

PHeating
(W)
2.2845
2.0543
1.8370
1.6330
1.4376
1.2552
1.0858
0.6471
0.3127

132.6

0.019

-0.053

0.0825

re (C

Gradient

Change in
Gradient

Efficiency

0.0001

0.0071
0.0063
0.0057
0.0050
0.0044
0.0039
0.0034
0.0020
0.0001

Overall the solar collector performed quite well as it met the brief due to its ability to
focus the energy that was emitted from the source to the copper and was able to raise
the coppers temperature as is clearly evident in both Table 2 and Figure 4. Observing the
gradients over the heating period in both Table 2 and the curve characteristics of Figure
4, it can be said that the temperature increase experienced by the copper was at a much
greater rate at the beginning of the testing than that of the tale end. This result is
consistent with the previously mentioned theory as it is clearly evident that as the setup
reaches its maximum temperature the heating power decreases. This is also
demonstrated in the incremental changes in the raw temperature data shown in

Appendix A, as the changes are quite significant up until 133 with jumps of 4 - 21 with
the larger changes at the beginning. These changes decrease after this point with the
data showing a steading temperature increase of 1 - 2 until a maximum temperature is

reached signified by the data showing a consistent reading of 158 . This lack of change
is a major indicator that there is an absence of PHEATING thus further satisfying the
theory initially stated.
It is also apparent that the PHEATING value never reaches levels close to that of the
source (800 W/m2). Though there have been a number of assumptions adopted during
this experiment that could explain this, this lack of reflected power can also be attributed
to the solar collector itself. The most prominent issue that was observed was the focus
area of the solar collectors focal point. When tested the focal area was much larger than
that of the copper thus leading to believe that a portion of the power reflected from the
source missed the copper completely. This effect was increased as time elapsed as the
solar collector began to deform due to the temperatures with the aluminum foil wrinkling,
the cardboard bending and the glue bonds breaking. This change in structure and shape
meant that the power from the source was now being reflected away from the copper
thus reducing the solar collectors effectiveness.
Another aspect worth highlighting is the efficiency readings that are displayed in
Appendix B. The trend of efficiency that was obtain did not meet expectations as it was
expected that the efficiency would begin at a low level with an increase experienced of
which would reach a peak, then fall to a lower level. This behavior should be been
expressed through a curved similar to that of a negative parabola with the peak
indicating the systems maximum efficiency or a balance between the power absorbed
and the heating power with the power emitted. When referring to the results expressed
in Figure 5 in Appendix B, it may be assumed that the data is indicating that the system

began
beyond
resultant
achieved.

at
its

Figure 3 Deformation of Panels and


Aluminium Lining

temperatures
efficiency thus the
curve
was

5.2 Possible Improvements


This section discusses the possible improvements that may have been implemented to
improve certain aspects of the experiment.

5.2.1 Overall Experiment


The most pressing improvement would be to have the experiment conducted outside on
an optimal day with no cloud cover and limited breeze. This was unattainable at the time
that this experiment was conducted due to the nature of the weather. Conducting the
experiment in these conditions would provide more accurate results. In addition to this,
access to results achieved by other designs could also be helpful as it provides further
insight to the advantages and disadvantages of build quality and design.

5.2.2 Solar Collector


It is believed that the most influential change that could be made to the solar collector
that was used for this experiment was the material that was used both for its
construction and for the reflective component. Improved construction materials would
reduce the deformation of the structure, thus reducing the amount of power being
reflected away from the copper. Improved reflective material has the potential to
increase the systems operating capacity thus also increasing the systems efficiency.

CONCLUSION

The solar collector that was constructed for the purpose of demonstrating the theory
behind simple solar collection performed adequately and was able to produce results that
met expectations on the most part with the system able to achieve a maximum

temperature of 158 C over a 12.5min period, achieving a maximum efficiency of 0.007.


The results displayed the relationship between the power absorbed, heating power
experienced and the power emitted by the piece of copper and successfully showed that
as the system reached its maximum temperature, the heating power experienced by the
copper was less apparent. Improvements to both the experiment; by using the sun as the
source and the solar collector; with improvements to the materials used could have
attain better results. With this said, the overall experiment was enough to allow for the
understanding of underlying components relating to solar collection.

APPENDIX A
Table 3 Raw Data Collected from Practical

Raw Data
Temperature
Time
(degrees)
(seconds)
27
0
48
30
62
60
74
90
86
120
95
150
103
180
110
210
115
240
120
270
125
300
129
330
133
360
135
390
137
420
139
450
141
480
143
510
145
540
147
570
149
600
151
630
153
660
155
690
157
720
158
750
158
780

APPENDIX B
Appendix C

Appendix D
Figure 4 Temperature over Time Graph
Figure 5 Efficiency Over Temperature Graph