While visiting MIT for graduation, I walked right past a new prototype-scale solar-thermal power plant that a group of students had built in one of the Institute’s outlaying parking lots. Given my recent coverage of the Nevada Solar One power plant (see Nevada Solar One Demonstrates Scalability of Solar Thermal Energy), I could not resist posing for a photo (below).
Fortunately, someone familiar with the project was standing guard to ensure latecomers rushing to park in the lot for gradation did not inadvertently hit the installation. So, I was able to learn a little about the power plant before dashing off to receive my Ph.D.
This solar-thermal plant was specifically designed for use in developing counties and was built using old, recycled automobile parts. The four parabolic mirrors concentrate solar energy on the black-painted pipes that run along the foci of each mirror, heating the fluid inside. In the configuration pictured, the system was set up with a heat exchanger (which I am standing in front of, unfortunately) to deliver hot water. A turbine could also be added to extract energy from the collected heat.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.