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Spring Session 2012

At the end of the spring session, the 2011-2012 Solar Lab senior design projects have been finalized. Here are our results.

STTL  Team A
Team Members: Sheiba Feizizadeh, Jesse Snyder, Jim, Ken Bilodeau, Williamson, Aaron St. Sauveur, Babak Sarlati
Advisor:  Dr. Stephen Ross

The goal of this project is to research options for the design of a solar simulator and  to create procedural and data collection documents to support lab accreditation. In addition, the team is working to produce the first STTL test report of a flat plate solar thermal collector.

Key Features:

  1. developed an eight 2000W lamp array design of a solar simulator including an adjustable structure, alternative solar panel mounting cart, cooling system,  and interfacing and control system.
  2. produced lamp research test report and MS excel simulation model to predict effects of overlapping irradiance profiles with multiple light sources
  3. created procedures and data collection logs for all of the solar panel tests carried out in the SRCC Standard 100 criteria
  4. generated first  complete STTL test report of a flat plate solar collector

Solar Light Simulator design (left) and the Solar Panel Cart (right)


Team Members: Tristan Demeter Cowan, Nicholas Chiaverini, Carl Zhu
Advisor:  Dr. Stephen Ross

The goal of this project is to design and create systems that will validate the various sensors on the STTL’s pump cart.  The flowmeter and the temperature sensors and pressure sensors at the panel inlet and outlet need to be kept in calibration in order to meet the SRCC 100 and ISO standards that STTL must satisfy in order to qualify solar panels.

Key Features:

  1. A Flowmeter Validation system which connects to the Pump Cart and calculates flowrate by measuring the change in weight of a water tank over a period of time.
  2. A Pressure Validation system that utilizes weights exerted over a known cross-sectional area of a 2-ton bottle jack piston to create an internal pressure reading. The system shall be an absolute measurement device, with a mechanical gauge read-out, a pressure relief safety valve and capability to calibrate two sensors simultaneously.
  3. A Temperature Validation system which consists of a temperature bath borrowed from the Chemistry Department that controls temperature precisely. The temperature sensors to be validated will be compared against a highly precise reference temperature sensor.
  4. A binder shared with Team A that contains written procedures and results.


Temperature Validation System (left); Pressure Sensor Calibration (center) and Flow meter Calibration (right)



Fall Session 2011

Following an exciting and productive summer session, the lab completed the pump cart’s main control system, a CNC-machined sundial, a dynamic 30-day exposure stand and it had begun testing thermal efficiencies of solar panels. The lab continued to progress as part of the engineering students’ senior design course. This fall, team members were grouped into two teams. Team A, led by Jim Williamson, was responsible for researching and building a solar simulator, a huge task given the complexity and strict requirements to simulate the sun. Team B, led by Nick Chiaverini, was responsible for developing a calibration system for the flow meter, pressure sensors and temperature sensors.

Throughout the fall 2011 semester, Team A worked to design a solar simulation system which would allow for solar thermal collector and solar PV panel testing when outdoor conditions are not adequate. The design covered aspects of illumination, cooling, controls, and mounting. The initial design was composed of an array of eight 2000W lamps (mounted upon an adjustable Unistrut frame), arranged to uniformly supply irradiance across a 6X8 ft test plane. The cooling system was designed to maintain the system temperature by removing excess heat through a series of overhead ducts. The lamp control system consisted of a LabVIEW digital control board which allowed for complete adjustment of each of the eight units. Following the fall 2011 semester, Team A began performing preliminary tests on the 2000W lamps to determine if the current design will meet collimation and uniformity requirements. A MS excel-generated regression model is currently being developed to predict the irradiance profile which will exist throughout the simulator's test plane. These results will reveal whether the design must be adjusted in order to conform to SRCC, ISO, and IEC requirements.

Team B designed a calibration system for the Flow Technology (T6-8AEXW-LED-1) flow meter, which is capable of measuring 0.5 to 5 gpm with an accuracy of ±0.05% of the max flow rate. The calibration system used a 55 gallon tank, a scale capable of measuring up to 400lb with a precision of 0.02lb and LabVIEW controlled solenoid valves. The calibration check of the flow meter can be achieved by filling up the tank with water and measuring the change of weight with respect to time using a LabVIEW program. The temperature sensor calibration system will utilize an existing temperature bath from the Chemistry Department. Two designs of calibration systems were developed for the pressure sensors (Omegadyne Model PX419), with operating range from 0 to 250 psig and accuracy of 0.25% of full scale (i.e. 0.625psi). Both designs were both absolute measurement devices, meaning they used calibrated weights resting on a known area to create internal pressure inside a container, from which pressure sensor will be calibrated. One design incorporated a commercial bottle jack to act as a pressurized chamber; the second design used a custom made piston and chamber. The first design required a significant amount of weight to produce the 250 psig needed for calibration. The second design had a significantly smaller diameter piston, thus required much less weight to produce the desired pressure. Both calibration systems are currently being built to assess which will be the most beneficial to the lab.


Summer Internship 2011

Week Ten: 8/8/2011 - 8/12/2011
We have been testing the panel cart this week. All of the sensors on that cart are working properly and the control system is very effective in regulating the flow rate and temperature. The E2 computer is responsible for PID control while a computer with LabView is responsible for data collection. We outfit the “Detail A” boxes with Styrofoam insulation modified for the different sensor and pipe assemblies. The incident angle sundial was close to completion at the end of the week. The sundial plate was constructed using the TCoE’s newly functional CNC machine. A detailed model was drawn in SolidWorks and subsequently built using SolidCAM. Since this was the first project done on the CNC machine, we were all happy with its success.
Week Nine: 7/25/2011 - 7/29/2011
Detail A holders on the panel cart were designed and installed this week. The setup uses hinges and sliders to produce adjustable holders for different panels. Insulating boards were added to the water tank on the pump cart. Meanwhile, control software programs continued to be improved upon to regulate flow rate and temperatures.
Week Eight: 7/18/2011 - 7/22/2011
Two “Detail A” boxes were constructed this week using marine starboard. Winches were installed on both the panel cart and the pump cart to allow for transporting in and out of the building. Materials for the Exposure stand have been ordered. Other equipment, such as grinder, wire bundlers and pipe connectors were ordered, too.
Week Seven: 07/11/11 - 07/15/11
A commercial operations chip for the water heater arrived. The water heater is now setup and connected to the electrical circuit board. The flow meter arrived and functioned properly this time. Replacement for Motorized Valve 3 came in and it also functioned properly this time. The Ambient Cart was taken outdoors and tested multiple times during the week. All components connection issues have been resolved and the cart is operational. Design B of the Exposure Test Stand is completed. It incorporates features of Design A with additional improvements. The stand is under construction. Finally, pipe fittings for the first solar collector to be tested are soldered on.
Week Six: 07/05/11 - 07/08/11
This week, the Mounting Cart’s electrical box, electrical wiring, along with a 22-pin cable are completed. The Mounting Cart hosts 4 temperature sensors, 2 pressure sensors, 2 anemometers and 2 pyranometers. On the other hand, Design A of the Exposure Test Stand is finished. The sundial design is completed and approved. The Detail A box, which will house the sensors on the Mounting Cart, is being designed. In other news, the battery arrived and the generator is able to run and be tested.
Week Five: 06/27/11 - 07/01/11
This week, we installed the new wheels on the panel cart. The new wheels are 4 sets of 2 wheel assemblies not unlike airplane landing gear wheels. They should be sturdy enough to carry all the loads on that cart. We began piping the propane tank to the generator and water heater. As we continue in connecting components electrically to the control panel, we began wiring the components on the other cart. This week, the ambient cart components have been wired and connected. Using 10-pin cables, the ambient anenometer, pyrheliometer, pyranometer 1 and ambient temperature sensor are connected to the control board and running well. We began designing a sun dial for the Incident Angle Test and an exposure stand for the 30-day Exposure Test.
Week Four: 06/20/11 - 06/24/11
As we progressed in setting up the components to the electrical board, numerous changes were made to the electrical circuits and new terminals were added. We revised our drawings as this happened. Thanks to the School's Electrical Technician, we now have large prints of our drawings. Disappointingly, a few components were faulty. One of the motorized valves was malfunctioning and cannot turn one way, giving the computer a trouble signal. A flow meter is also malfunctioning. In other news, four brand new wheel assemblies arrived to solve the buckling wheels problem. We are designing the bracket to mount the new wheels. The new Solar Lab Technician, Rick, has joined our team.
Week Three: 06/13/11 - 06/17/11
This week, we completed Version 1 of the Master Wiring Diagram, along with Simplified DC Wire Layout and Simplified AC layout. We are in the process of linking the components on the pump cart to the electrical board. A lot of troubleshooting was required on the units connecting to the E2 Control Board. We have designed an apparatus for the external thermal shock test.
Week Two: 06/06/11 - 06/10/11
We are still awaiting a few parts for the electrical board. Meanwhile, electrical drawings are completed except for the missing parts, which are ordered. We have completed installing conduits to direct wires from the components of the pump cart, including pressure sensors, linear accentuators, temperature sensors etc. We have mounted the electrical board into the pump cart. Next step is to connect the components to the circuit board. On Friday, we hosted the Board of Governors for their visit to the Solar Lab.
Week One: 5/31/11 - 06/03/11
This week, we continued development of the electrical circuit board. Picking up where the electrical engineers left off in the spring, we studied the completed work and progressed in finalizing the control circuit board. We are in the process of completing the electrical board. Once completed the circuit board will be mounted on the pump cart, where the system can be controlled in one place. A master electrical drawing is in development. In the meantime, we began wiring of the main components on the pump cart. We mounted conduit on the panel cart. We mounted the air tanks on the pump cart. The piping system was painted, then tested for leaks via air tests and the leaks were patched.