Aston designs and builds a Solar Thermal Heat Collector

Aston's solar thermal heat collector

16 December 2011

Aston University is testing a Solar Thermal Collector installed on the roof of its main building, as part of the Research Council UK’s Science Bridge Project with India.

Designed and built by PhD students of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the 3×4 m collector is being monitored to provide recommendations for collaborative partners based in Gujarat.  When replicated in rural India, the collector will help provide much needed energy services such as food processing and ice making.

To capture the sun’s rays at all times of day, the collector uses motors to position mirrors made of inexpensive flat glass strips. The mirrors direct the sun’s rays towards an absorbing pipe where steam will be generated. Steam can be used for a number of purposes. It can turn turbines that generate electricity; drive refrigerators and power machinery for processing crops such as tomatoes and fruits to make pickles and jams.

As well as receiving abundant sunlight, India produces vast amounts of biomass in the form of agricultural waste. To take advantage of this situation, the solar collectors will be combined with a biomass boiler in a hybrid power plant. The biomass boiler will kick in after sunset enabling the system to operate round the clock. In poor communities continually affected by electricity shortages, this will provide a reliable source of power, essential for the creation of sustainable industries and jobs.

Aston’s solar thermal collector, which has an aperture area of 8 m2, produces about 20 kWh of heat per day under sunny conditions. A power plant in India using this technology with an aperture area scaled up to 3000 m2 could generate enough electricity to power 1000 rural Indian homes and make about 30 tonnes of ice per day.

Commenting on his research, PhD student Jonathan Nixon said; ‘’Working on the solar collector has been a fascinating project and greatly developed my engineering and design knowledge. The support and funding received through Aston University and collaborative partners in India has been crucial in my research.’’

The Science Bridge Project has seen Aston working in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) to provide sustainable solutions based on renewable energy.

For further media information contact Kreesha Pattani, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or k.pattani1@aston.ac.uk