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Interdisciplinary Education Project to develop wood-fabrication methods of Lytefire Solar Concentrators

Posted 12 May 2020 by Urs Riggenbach.

We are excited to announce that together with Berne University of Applied Sciences we facilitated an interdisciplinary design/build course in solar thermal energy. The course was held as part of their project-week format, where interdisciplinary groups of students get to apply their skills in design, architecture and wood-engineering to real world problems.

A Lytefire 5 solar concentrator.

At Lytefire we’re all about enabling people to have their own energy access. Powered by the sun, the Lytefire 5 for example helps entrepreneurs cut down on fuel costs. In many developing countries, and most recently also in France and Switzerland, our units often replace charcoal and firewood, and thus help preventing deforestation at the same time as increasing people’s incomes – by now we are 100% sure that there is a huge untapped impact potential in solar concentration.

One key aspect our our technology is that it is built using simple materials that are available locally practically anywhere on earth. The mirror material we use, for example, can be purchased from any glass-store found in larger towns (and we have worked in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Philippines, Switzerland to verify that). The structural parts of the solar units is normally made from steel, and requires welding to complete. A welding machine costs 100 dollars and all-tough they say welding takes a lifetime to perfect we have trained people to weld the structural parts of the Lytefire 4 unit (for which there are construction plans available) in less than an hour. The Lytefire 4 is actually a perfect way to learn welding, as you an start with the minor parts and do the key welds at the end once your welding is solid. Nonetheless, welding does create barriers as generally there are fewer people with experience in working with metal than there are people working with wood.

Thus came about our collaboration with BUAS – the Bern Bern University of Applied Sciences. Together with an interdisciplinary group of students from the fields of wood-engineering, architecture and design, we have launched a project to develop wood-based fabrication methods and designs.

In 2012 we already prototyped the key parts of our solar technology in wood, to verify that there are no technical limits to building our technology in wood or bamboo long-term. With this project we are now able to bring in a group of motivated students eager to apply their skills to a real-world problem and develop solutions that can have an impact. The wood-version could be even easier to maintain locally, it could be more low-cost in some contexts and make fabrication easier for people already familiar with wood rather than metal.

Stay tuned for updates on this track and check the project page for more information: https://gosol.org/projects

 

 

 

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