Monday, July 28, 2008

Going green: Powering it all (Part 2)

Boy, this whole "Let's save the world" thing takes a bit of time and effort ;)

Things are moving slowly, but they are moving, thankfully.

Initial design and simulation for the whole wave/tidal power generation thing is promising, which is nice to find. I'd initially planned to set out and build a small prototype in a MacGyver-esque fashion, but have held off for the time being. Rather than slapping something together willy-nilly to demonstrate feasibility, I feel it would likely be more beneficial and fulfilling to put together a more sound prototype, and demonstrate what's necessary to be able to power n homes by scaling up the design. Knowing me, I'll wind up building a prototype that's a compromise of the two in the coming month or so.

Meanwhile, I've been concentrating more on the solar/thermal power generation side of things, for a couple of reasons:
- it's where I feel the most bang for the buck will be found, long term, when considering all factors
- I can make and test prototypes at home -- no travelling to the shore required
- small-scale prototypes will still demonstrate proof of concept, and have negligible cost

Much work has already been done in the field, and things like improvements to Sterling Engine design and implementation are currently being researched by a variety of organizations.

What's a Sterling Engine? Well, it's a type of heat engine -- one that operates simply by applying heat (from combustion, solar energy, geothermal, or what have you). They are quite simple, with very few moving parts, and have been demonstrated to operate with just a few degrees difference in temperature between the cold and hot portions of the engine. (Some will even operate off of the heat from the palm of your hand) Google will lead you to a whole variety of resources, including how to build your own with a few tin cans.

With all that's been done in mind, why bother? Hrmm...well, I've got a variation on the theme in mind which I hope will scale up nicely -- at the moment the main design has only one moving part, although some additional parts may be incorporated to offer better efficiency, if needed. I'd like to run some computer simulations, however many of the nice simulation software packages that include computational fluid dynamics are rather costly...as such, I'm simply hoping to execute a design that works, based on simple high school/undergrad calculations. If the design can be shown to work, well, then I'll put in some effort to further optimize it.

Of course, if the variation doesn't work as intended, it'll be time to sip a soda and gather my thoughts. If it does, well, I'll wire it up as a generator to see what average power it'll generate over a reasonable amount of time. I'll keep you posted with the results, either way.

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