It’s time for Doug Wood to take a bow. Why, you may ask? Doug Wood is an inventor. To some he could be a ‘garage scientist’ pottering about with knickknacks and dreaming about the next big patent. For other’s his simple spark of innovativeness could solve their rising energy costs. It looks deceptively like a DIY radio telescope searching for life out in the black yonder, but actually is a solar collector; harnessing the one thing we have in abundance – the sun’s rays. And Doug Wood’s design is as DIY (Do-It-Yourself) as it comes.
His working model is built around a frame of lightweight inexpensive aluminum tubing with thin mirror strips as the reflective surface. Just 12 foot wide, sitting on our garden patch it can concentrate sunlight 1000 times to produce enough heat to steam water. Observers say that Doug’s invention could give a solid push to ways for producing inexpensive energy.
Solar panels to harness the sun’s power are not a novel concept. In fact we see it commonly in solar water heaters, solar cookers and even in solar watches and solar calculators. The concept is simple in itself, consisting of a solar collector (a panel) which concentrates the sun’s rays and heats up a fluid like water or oil which in turn is used to transfer heat to the point of use. A solar panel can be a sophisticated array of photovoltaic cells or a shiny reflective surface like special mirrors.
Doug’s innovation is a standout because it claims to be the most efficient solar concentrator around for its size and it is inexpensive. A 1000 factor increase in the intensity of solar light through his invention is enough to vaporize water to steam and thus, energy. With this confidence in his product, Doug has patented his design and has handed over the rights to a team of students at MIT.
MIT student Spencer Ahrens have worked to further improve the design and further simplified it for easy assembling at home. This simple contraption could have immediate cheap and sustainable uses for both homes and industrial applications. Spencer Ahrens and his enterprising team believe that Doug’s innovation could pay for itself within two years. To further their green goal, Spencer Ahrens and his team have set up RawSolar to mass produce the solar collector and make it accessible to home owners and industrial users.
Doug Wood’s invention again raises the question – Are we looking at esoteric options when there lie simpler choices around us? Are we taking the sun for granted, when in fact it is perhaps the most reliable form of energy for us on Earth? Whatever be the perspectives, it is time now to revisit the power of the sun.