STUDENT SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT STUDYING POWER BEAMING

STUDENT SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT STUDYING POWER BEAMING

March 26, 2012

LaserMotive congratulates Avery Rich, a ninth-grader at Cedarcrest High School in Duvall, WA, for her prize winning Science Fair project, entitled “Beaming Power: Can Lasers Be Used To Transfer Energy Efficiently?”

Avery approached us in October about mentoring her in her research project, and we are delighted to see the thought, research acumen, and experimental skills she devoted to her study. You can see Avery’s project this Saturday from 1:00-3:00 when she competes in the Central Sound Regional Science & Engineering Fair at the Bellevue College Gymnasium, on March 10, 2012. http://depts.bellevuecollege.edu/sciencefair/

We recently had a chance to talk to Avery about her project.

Q: How did you get interested in power beaming as a science fair project?

A: My dad is an electrical engineer, and he has inspired my interest in building things. I am the only girl in my school interested in engineering, and my goal is to be an aerospace engineer. My specific area of interest is alternative propulsion technologies.

For my project, I initially wanted to study/measure the speed of light, but I realized it was too fast for the resources I had available. As I researched light, I learned about the wave/particle duality, and that piqued my interested in light. Then I read about solar power and thought about the conversion of light to energy. I follow NASA, and I read about the space elevator games, heard of LaserMotive, and I started reading about laser power beaming.

Q: What was your research question?

A: Are lasers more efficient at transferring energy over distance than other light sources?

Q: What was your hypothesis?

A: If the distance between a light source and a photovoltaic cell affects power efficiency, then a laser will have a more consistent efficiency over distance than a non-collimated light source, such as a flashlight, because a laser is more collimated.

Q: What was your research methodology?

A: I attached a flashlight to a metal track, aimed it at a solar panel, and measured the input and output voltage and current at various distances. I then did the same with a 330 mW 808 nm laser. I graphed the average efficiency over distance of both onto the same logarithmic scale graph and compared the two data trends.

Q: What was the result?

A: The flashlight graph showed a clear exponential pattern, while the laser graph exhibited a much more linear pattern. The shape of the flashlight graph tells us that as the PV cell moves away from the flashlight, efficiency drops drastically and is reduced to little or no measurable power at all. This confirms the expected cons of a non-collimated light source. The linear pattern of the laser graph shows us that efficiency is more consistent over distance. As distance increases, there is little to no change in efficiency when using the laser. This explains how lasers can be beneficial in powering an object over great distances, because distance itself is not a primary factor in efficiency.

Q: What was your conclusion?

A: It was predicted that if the distance between a light source and a photovoltaic cell affects power efficiency, then a laser will have a more consistent efficiency over distance than a non-collimated light source, such as a flashlight, because a laser is more collimated. This hypothesis was proven correct by the conducted experiment. Thus, lasers can transfer energy much more consistently over distance than a non-collimated light source.

Q: What is next?

A: I will be presenting my project at the Central Sound Regional Science & Engineering Fair at the Bellevue College Gymnasium on March 10, 2012. http://depts.bellevuecollege.edu/sciencefair/. After that, I will continue pursuing my goal of being an aerospace engineer (and softball)!

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