November 23, 2009

Design Review: New Solar Array

Anyone who knows anything about the solar panels we have been using (which includes just about everyone except the person writing this) is aware of the various problems that have come up in the past: the panels are made for houses and not boats, output is roughly half of what it should be, and it is difficult to add thermal cooling to something that has already been built.

The goal of the project presented at the design review last week is to equip the boat with a custom-fit solar array in time for the 2010 competition. The new array should be lighter, more efficient, and, it's worth noting, a probable shoe-in for the coveted design award. No team has ever brought this kind of thermal cooling project to competition. As charming as South Hampton was last year, squirting water on their boat each time it passed the dock, we think we can do better.

The team's design attempts to combine the "best of everything." It's kind of like a sandwich that allows water to be pumped through plastic channels, cooling strips of aluminum that will in turn cool the solar cells. Below are some images from the review:

Exploded view. Sandwich ingredients from top to bottom: cells, corrugated plastic (where water runs through) with aluminum strips, fiberglass, corrugated plastic (structural, no water), fiberglass. Yum.

Cell temperature versus time and distance from the origin (in the plastic channel). Note that this model is actually incorrect. The team explained that they repeatedly crashed SolidWorks when trying to complete the modeling, so they went back to flint and did it themselves in MatLab. Which may have been a mistake...but it will be fixed for the future!

Check out the kiva for a more detailed explanation. We'll keep you updated on the progress of this project and others in the weeks to come.


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