Fun With the Sun: Fantabulous Solar Energy Science Project Ideas

This article includes some simple solar energy science projects that you can set up at home or use to teach the concept of solar energy to young children.
In simple terms, solar energy is the energy that we receive from the sun. The sun is a big ball of heat and the light, which is produced as the result of the nuclear fission that takes place in its core. The energy released from the core reaches the Earth in the form of heat and light. Utilization of solar energy has become of paramount importance now, because all other forms of energy, like petrol and coal, are fast depleting. In addition to this, using it is very safe and causes absolutely no harm to the environment. Solar heaters and cookers have been around for quite some time and are fast becoming popular as they help conserve a large amount of electricity. The setup can take up a lot of space, but their benefits out shadow their few drawbacks any day. It just takes a little concern for the environment from our end.

Here are some solar energy science projects that you can use to teach people as to how solar energy can be used as an alternate source of energy, or you can even implement them at home and enjoy the benefits of the same.

Simple Water Heater

This is a very simple project, which is actually employed in many southern states where freezing is not an issue. This setup is used to pre-heat well water for domestic use. Although a little inefficient as there is night heat loss, the setup is very inexpensive and very easy to build.

Before you try it out on your tank, you may want to try out the setup in a small breadbox to ensure that you have enough sunlight in your area for heating the water to the required temperature. Hence, I will describe the setup for a breadbox and if it works for you, you can extend it to a small tank. At the very beginning, you will have to stuff the sides of a bread box (2'x2'x2) with crinkled damp newspaper. This should take you less than an hour, but the newspaper will take about a week to dry. Place the box in the attic for faster results. Once the newspaper becomes dry, glue the aluminum foil on it. Place a bowl upside down in the center of the box. Paint a one gallon jug black and place it on top of the bowl.

Fill the jug with water. Take the temperature of the water and cover the bread box with a lid. Place the bread box under direct sunlight for about three hours and then take the temperature of the water again. Multiply the difference in temperature of the water with 8. This will give you the amount of solar energy that you have collected in 3 hours. If you achieve a difference of about 80 degree Fahrenheit, then you can give yourself a pat on your back and work on enhancing the bread box setup to a full-scale setup.

Solar Cooker

In this project, we will make a parabolic solar cooker (shaped like a trough) and try to cook a hotdog in the same. To make the cooker that is parabolic in shape, you will need cardboard. Depending on the number of hotdogs that you need to cook, you can verify the size and the process of making the parabolic cooker on the internet.

Once the cooker has been made, tape the aluminum foil to the insides of the cooker. Attach the cooker to a cardboard box using nuts and bolts. Ensure that the cooker is movable so that you can swing it to point directly at the sun. Straighten a wire hanger and bend one end of it to make a handle. Make holes at both the ends of the cooker and insert the hanger into it after placing the hot dog on it. Place the cooker under direct sunlight and adjust the mirrored surface of the cooker, so that all the reflected sunlight focuses on the hotdog. Let the hotdog cook. This setup can also be used to heat water.