During the summer of 2012, nine Valpo mechanical and electrical and computer engineering students continued work on the solar furnace which is the main component of the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility. The students receive a stipend and free housing for their participation in the project. Additionally, they have the opportunity to learn alongside faculty and develop their engineering skills by working on a real-world project.
The solar furnace consists of a heliostat to track the sun, a concentrator to focus the sun's energy to a point, and a reactor where the solar electrochemical reaction occurs. Additionally, a louver assembly which controls the amount of sunlight that enters the concentrator is located between the heliostat and concentrator . Finally, a reactor table is used to position the reactor and other important instrumentation at the concentrator focal point.
During their internships, Valpo engineering students completed the design, manufacturing, and assembly of the reactor table and louvers. Moreover, they created prototype electrical systems to power the louvers and reactor table, and participated in the development of the LabVIEW program that controls the 3 reactor table servo motors, the louver servo motor, and the two servo motors that position the heliostat relative to the sun.
This September, the heliostat will be installed and the final testing of the entire solar furnace will begin.