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How do the materials that a solar panel is made of effect efficiency of the panel in creating electricity?

Megan Sapp Nelson (msn@purdue.edu) (ready to use)

Coauthors
Catherine Fraser Riehle


ASK
Subject Areas
Science

Grade Levels
6, 7, 8, 9

Unit Keywords
alternative energy; solar energy; information literacy; Indiana 7th grade science standards;

Open Directory Category
http://www.dmoz.org/Science/Technology/Energy/Renewable/Solar/

Rationale of the Unit
This inquiry unit provides hands on scientific experience for junior high students into the area of renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and provides an understanding of types of generation of energy.

  INVESTIGATE Go to Topgo to top
Background and Resources
BACKGROUND -- brief overview
This unit provides a hands-on experiment in alternative energy, specifically solar energy, while helping students to grasp concepts of physics through a computer controlled laboratory at Purdue University.

READINGS -- texts, slides, audio/video
Indiana State Education Standards
7.3.11 Explain that the sun loses energy by emitting light. Note that only a tiny fraction of that light reaches Earth. Understand that the sun's energy arrives as light with a wide range of wavelengths, consisting of visible light and infrared and ultraviolet radiation.

7.3.14 Explain that energy in the form of heat is almost always one of the products of an energy transformation, such as in the examples of exploding stars, biological growth, the operation of machines, and the motion of people.

7.3.15 Describe how electrical energy can be produced from a variety of energy sources and can be transformed into almost any other form of energy, such as light or heat.

7.3.16 Recognize and explain that different ways of obtaining, transforming, and distributing energy have different environmental consequences.

7.3.18 Describe that light waves, sound waves, and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.

WEB SITES -- sites for exploration and interaction
Purdue University Remote Solar Energy Lab
http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/met/Facilities/knoy427/remote/nsf/index_rev.htm
High School Instructor Introduction
http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/met/Facilities/knoy427/remote/nsf/SolarEnergyIntroduction.pdf
Experiment Procedure
http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/met/Facilities/knoy427/remote/nsf/SolarHSexperiment.pdf

RESOURCES AND SUPPLEMENT MATERIALS
Solar Energy Remotely Accessible Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at Purdue
Computer Specifications http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/met/Facilities/knoy427/remote/nsf/compreq_rev.htm
Indiana Climate Data
http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ind/forecast.php
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_solar.html
- Includes streaming video explaining how photo voltaic cells work

  CREATE Go to Topgo to top
Activities and Open-ended problems
IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES
Collect data from RAEL in class.
http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/met/Facilities/knoy427/remote/nsf/SolarHSexperiment.pdf

ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE OF CLASS / INDEPENDENT WORK
Repeat data collection step over one week outside of class. When you have 7 days worth of data, compare efficiencies of different materials over time. Create graphs showing the fluctuation of efficiency over the time period that you collected in. Create a graph showing the average efficiency of each material compared with all others. Which material is most efficient?

or
Take measurements once a month throughout the school year and compare efficiencies of different materials across seasons. Create graphs showing the fluctuation of efficiency over the time period that you collected in. Create a graph showing the average efficiency of each material compared with all others. Which material is most efficient?

Additionally,
Research materials that solar panels are commonly comprised of and write an inquiry unit describing the research process.
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/solarcells.htm
OR
Search Sandia National Laboratory's Applied Energy Database. http://www.energylan.sandia.gov/photoreg/ckname.cfm
Find pictures of the variety of different designs that solar collectors take. Look at the locations of the different collectors. How might location make a difference in the design of a solar collector? Write an inquiry unit exploring how location changes the design of solar energy instillations.

OPEN-ENDED PROBLEMS -- creative extensions
Building a solar oven
http://www.re-energy.ca/t_solarheat.shtml
What other natural resources can solar energy replace besides coal or natural gas? How does it replace them? In what situations is this particularly desirable?

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Dialogues, Discussions, and Presentations
FACE-TO-FACE DIALOGUES
In small groups discuss pros and cons of using solar energy that you have learned in this unit.

Discuss factors governing efficiency of solar energy production.

GROUP DIALOGUES
Extrapolate from solar energy to wind energy and electricity made from coal. What factors might limit the efficiency of these other types of energy generation?




  REFLECT Go to Topgo to top
Assessment, Related Questions, and Story of the Unit
ASSESSMENT
Turn in:
Completed efficiency worksheet.
Graph of efficiencies of materials.
Inquiry unit log of research activities.

Credits & Acknowledgements
Purdue RAEL; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; NASA

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