Can a parabolic mirror be flat? Dominic Wanjihias latest invention may prove that this is the most efficient way of capturing solar energy.
Everyone knows what a parabolic reflector is, right? It’s supposed to be a curved surface that collects energy by converging it towards a focus. Parabolic reflectors were invented a very long time ago and have been used in satellite dishes, spot lights and car headlights to name a few. They are also widely used for alternative energy projects to concentrate solar energy for heating and cooking.
Dominic (designer of the flexible solar vest, the solar dryer, and camel milk cooler for Somalia) thinks that the parabolic mirror should lose it’s shape which is an obstacle, to transportation and function.
So how does the flat parabolic mirror work? Dominic has cut inch wide 2 foot long pieces of flexible acrylic mirrors and arranged them at specifically computed angles. When angled towards the sun, this creates a perfectly focused beam of light.
This concentrated energy can be used to heat water in a pipe for numerous purposes including generating electricity. The beauty of this gadget is that
- It is very cheap,
- It can be quickly dismantled or moved,
- It is easily transportable as it can be carried flat or in a tube,
- It is easily repaired if broken as the individual mirror pieces can be replaced (rather than having to fix or replace an entire parabolic mirror).
Please note that this is part of Dominic Wanjihia’s ongoing project with Nairobi University and MIT’s FabLab where he is doing a course.