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Engineering Service Learning Students Pioneer a High-efficiency Solar Collector

April 29, 2016

Adrian Toscano
Technical Writing Assistant, Engineering Service Learning

A team of Engineering Service Learning students developed a prototype solar collector that could revolutionize the way solar energy is studied at UC Merced.

Working with the Engineering Instructional Laboratories and building on the work completed by previous teams, the fall 2015 Instructional Lab 2 Team (IL 2) combined solar collecting technologies that have never been combined before to build a working model of a high-efficiency solar collector for the labs.

The multi-semester team comprised students from different grade levels and disciplines who came together to innovate and learn more about solar research.

The students had to study the concepts of heat transfer and solar power and develop sketches for the prototypes using computer-aided design (CAD) to develop 2- or 3-dimensional models.

The team members drew from a list of materials compiled by the Spring 2015 IL 2 team, including glass tubes, aluminum rods and mini-channel components, to build a collector that could hold a vacuum seal. IL 2 a live demonstration of its success, constructing the prototype, testing the seal and then deconstructing the prototype.

The collector uses a glass tube as a reflector, while inside the tube, aluminum rods hold aluminum mini-channels that collect solar energy and heat a liquid passing through the mini-channels.

The students not only learned more about solar technology, they learned skills that will help them in their educational and post-educational careers.

Student development is the main goal of UC Merced’s Engineering Service Learning course. Since 2004, Engineering Service Learning has been connecting students with nonprofit organizations to solve engineering design problems the organizations face. Students from different majors work together to solve real-world dilemmas while developing professional, technical and leadership skills. IL 2 completed its prototype Dec. 10, 2015.

To learn more about the team and the inception of the concept, visit IL2 Project Details.