Solar Power

Extensive information material for young explorers on the subject of renewable energies / solar energy

The fischertechnik Solar Power

Here you can find extensive product information about the fischertechnik Solar Power.
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Understand the basics of solar technology using Solar Power.
Read this pedagogical information and try out the different models for a step-by-step introduction to the topic of solar energy. 
We hope you enjoy it!

Energy

We keep talking about energy, but what does energy actually mean, and how do you measure it?

You need energy: 

  • to accelerate a body or 
  • to move it against a force, 
  • to heat up a substance, 
  • to compress a gas, 
  • to cause an electric current to flow or 
  • to emit electromagnetic waves.
  • Plants, animals and people need energy to live. 

The unit used to measure energy and work is the joule (J). 

If you want to learn more about energy, you can find interesting articles online and in reference books.

 

From coal to nuclear power

And where does all that energy come from? We generate the majority of it from fossil fuels like gas, oil and coal. Some of our electricity also comes from nuclear energy. However, these types of energy do have various disadvantages:
- The Earth’s reserves of fossil fuels are limited.
- When we burn oil and coal, this produces harmful substances that pollute the environment, like CO2, which is responsible for the ongoing warming of the Earth's atmosphere.
- Despite high safety standards, nuclear energy does carry with it the risk of a nuclear meltdown. In addition, it also produces nuclear waste which remains radioactive for thousands of years.


However, there are forms of energy that are unlimited, that create no environmental pollution, and that do not come with any risk of nuclear disaster. We will explain these in the following section.
 

Water energy

The invention of the waterwheel was a milestone in human technological development.
It allowed people to use not only the power generated by their own muscles, but also mechanical energy as well – with the help of hydropower.
 

Wind energy

Wind can also be used to generate electricity. People have been using wind energy for their own purposes for centuries. Wind has been used, for instance, to transport people on sailboats and balloons, and wind energy has been used to do mechanical work with the help of windmills. Today, modern, high-performance windmills are used on the land and sea to generate power.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is environmentally-friendly, and there is an unlimited supply of it available. It is a type of alternative energy. This is also called renewable energy. In the PROFI Solar Power building set, you will be learning about how power is produced using solar energy.
In contrast to fossil fuel sources, this energy source is unlimited and does not have the disadvantages indicated above.
You will complete a variety of tasks to learn how to generate electricity using these energy sources to power fischertechnik models.
 

Energy

We keep talking about energy, but what does energy actually mean, and how do you measure it?

You need energy: 

  • to accelerate a body or 
  • to move it against a force, 
  • to heat up a substance, 
  • to compress a gas, 
  • to cause an electric current to flow or 
  • to emit electromagnetic waves.
  • Plants, animals and people need energy to live. 

The unit used to measure energy and work is the joule (J). 

If you want to learn more about energy, you can find interesting articles online and in reference books.

 

Fundamentals of solar Energy

Solar energy is energy generated by the sun through nuclear fusion, 
some of which reaches the earth as electromagnetic radiation (radiant energy). The majority of this energy is used to warm our planet. 

We can also use solar technology to harness solar energy for a variety of purposes: 

  • solar collectors generate heat and warmth 
  • concentrated solar power systems generate electricity by converting heat into water vapour 
  • solar cookers and solar ovens heat food 
  • solar cells generate direct current (photovoltaics)

Converting solar energy into electricity 

A solar cell or photovoltaic cell is an electrical component that converts the radiant energy in light (generally sunlight) directly into electric energy. The physical principle behind this conversion is the photovoltaic effect. A solar cell should not be confused with a solar collector, which uses the sun's energy to heat a transmission medium (usually hot water). 

Solar cells are made of silicon. Silicon blocks are cut into thin slices approx. 0.5 millimetres thick. The slices are then contaminated with different impurity atoms, which creates an imbalance in the structure of the silicon. This produces two layers, the positive p-layer and the negative n-layer.

To put it simply, the flow of electricity is created when electrons from the n-layer, excited by the incident light, move through the connected device (such as a solar motor) to the p-layer. The more light (energy) hits the cell, the more the electrons move. 

When a solar cell is connected to a device, it will move in this direction. You can imagine the flow of electricity as a circuit, where electrons are continuously arriving at the n-layer, then moving back to the p-layer. This flow of electrons causes current to flow and makes the motor turn.


Solar models with the solar module 

The solar module used in the PROFI Solar Power building set consists of four solar cells connected in series. It delivers a voltage of 1 V and a maximum current of 440 mA. The solar motor has a rated voltage of 2 V, but starts to turn at 0.3 V (idling, meaning that the shaft of the motor does not have to drive a model). 
Build a model of your choice (see the building instructions) for the experiments.

Experiment 1:

Determine what level of brightness is required to turn the motor. You can use a lamp with a light bulb to do so. Test your model outdoors in the sunshine as well.
Experiment 2: Conduct experiments to find answers to the following questions: 
• How bright does it need to be for the motor to turn sufficiently fast? 
• What light sources can be used to generate energy, and which can’t?

Experiment 3:

Find out what light intensity is required to cause the solar motor in the model to move 

Experiment 4:

Test the influence that light intensity has on rotational speed. Tip: you will be able to see this most easily using the carousel.
 

If something goes wrong 

If one of your models isn’t working correctly, please check the following table. It provides a list of possible faults and their causes. In addition, the table gives you some tips for how to correct the faults.

 

Possible cause

Corrective action

Mechanical faults

  • Check to make sure the movable components can move easily.
  • Are the components assembled as described in the building instructions?

Electrical faults

  • Motor direction – correct polarity?
  • Solar module does not produce any voltage – wrong light source?

Energy supplier for solar module

  • Suitable: Sun, halogen lamp, incandescent light bulb.
  • Not suitable: Energy saving bulb or LED light!

Standard for light energy:

The motor turns (with no load) using a 100 W

incandescent bulb as the light source, at a distance of approx. 40 cm.

More fun with the Green Energy

Click here to dive even further into renewable energy and learn more about our Green Energy kit.
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More fun with the H2 Fuel Cell Car

Click here to conduct exciting experiments with a fuel cell and learn how to make hydrogen to power a car.
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