Grade Level: 7th - 12th; Type: Environmental/Physical Science
Student builds and compares the heating abilities of solar ovens.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of coal and oil?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy?
- How is solar energy important to Earth’s ecosystems?
- How is solar energy important to Earth’s nutrient cycles?
- How do solar ovens work?
- What are the different types of designs for solar ovens?
- How could solar ovens be important for developing countries?
As nonrenewable fossil fuels continue to cause problems with pollution, many people are looking toward renewable energy for solutions. Solar energy is a source of clean, renewable energy that powers ecosystems and nutrient cycles on Earth. One application of solar energy is the use of solar ovens. Unlike photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity, solar ovens use the heat of the sun to cook food directly. They are inexpensive and relatively easy to build, qualities that make them a good choice for developing countries where both electricity and fuel wood are scarce. In this experiment, the student will build two different solar ovens and compare their designs and heating abilities.
- Aluminum foil
- Clear tape
- Plastic wrap and/or Plexiglas
- Two thermometers
- Visit the websites listed in the bibliography. Choose two designs to construct. Be sure to read through all of the instructions before choosing a design to make sure that you will be able to construct the oven. Get adult help if necessary. Build two solar ovens with different designs, using the instructions on the websites.
- Create your hypothesis as to which oven will heat better and why. Consider which oven you think will heat faster and which oven you think will reach the highest temperature. Near noon on a warm sunny day, take your ovens outside and position them for maximum sun exposure. Sun block, protective clothing, and sunglasses will protect you from UV rays.
- Once the ovens are positioned, place thermometers inside each and close the oven as described in the design guidelines. Record the initial temperature inside each oven. Observe the thermometers as the ovens work. Record the temperature in each oven every 5 minutes. Reposition the ovens as necessary to keep maximum sun exposure as the sun moves through the sky. Continue for 1-3 hours until the ovens stop increasing in temperature for a full 30 minutes.
- Take down your ovens and keep for future use. Create a line graph showing your results. Compare your results to your hypothesis.
Terms/Concepts: Renewable energy; Nonrenewable energy; Fossil fuels; Air Pollution; Solar energy; Solar ovens; Solar cookers; Ultraviolet (UV) light; Heat
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