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JRI research group develops low cost solar chimney improvement



Three students from different Southern California high schools participated in a research project that developed an inexpensive way of improving the performance of solar chimneys. Solar chimneys are passive and rigid systems that use the natural bouyancy of heated air to generate internal airflow. This airflow can be used to draw air into the solar chimney. Many modern buildings and homes use this structure to enable air circulation. Using a solar chimney to generate airflow eliminates the need to use generated power to move air, improving the comfort of the building without increasing its carbon footprint.

During the project, the students and their Research Mentor developed and tested a method of controlling the airflow through the solar chimney. This method involves altering the solar collector, the part of the solar chimney in which solar energy is captured and air is warmed. The method, which has been called the “Amusement Park Method”, increases the distance that air has to flow through the solar collector without increasing the physical size of the collector itself. As a result of being in the sun for extended periods of time, the air emerges from the solar collector at a higher temperature than it otherwise would. As a result, the bouyancy of the air is greater than it otherwise would be and the chimney generates more airflow than it otherwise would. The group documented a 55% increase in wind power with just a 3.1% increase in cost.



Much of this group's work was experimental. Initial work centered around a 20-foot solar chimney with an eight (8) square foot solar collector. Preliminary encouraging results led to the construction of as many as seven smaller solar chimneys 10 foot in height with only two (2) square foot solar collectors. These devices were intensively tested in an indoor laboratory. The group compiled their results in a scientific paper entitled Low cost solar chimney performance-improving enhancement, submitted it to the 2015 International Conference and Exhibition on Clean Energy sponsored by the International Academy of Energy, Minerals, and Materials. The paper was accepted and the group was invited to Ottowa Canada to present their research results. The students are Meishan Liang (17) from Temple City High School in Temple City, CA (now attending the University of California, Berkeley); Aaron Togelang (17) from Arcadia High School in Arcadia, CA; and Daniel Chan from the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, CA. Aaron delivered the presentation in Ottawa.

Since completing this first research effort, Liang has gone on to university at the University of California, Berkeley. She is studying materials science. Togelang and Chan, who began work at JRI during the 2014 Summer Program, are completing foundational study in theoretical mathematics and computer science. Chan is planning to move on to research on swarm engineering, a topic long studied at JRI, once he completes his coursework in math and computer science.




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