# Sustainable Energy Final Project Progress

Posted: April 14th, 2011 | Author: genevieve | Filed under: Sustainable Energy | No Comments »

Working Project Title : Peaks and Valleys

Metrics: Measure the potential energy the solar panel generates over time, and use this data to create a compelling data driven sculpture.

Alternate concept: Focus on form of ferrofluid and make a solar driven sundial, with magnets attached to servo motors that turn when different sized capacitors discharge.

Gabriella Levine and I are working together to make a data visualization of a large solar panel which we are borrowing from Dave Miller. The panel outputs around 20V at peak sunlight, and we believe we found its correct spec online, which says it outputs 4.5 watts max. We want to collect this data to see what its potential power is over the course of a few weeks as the weather changes. Here is a graph of data we’ve collected over a few days.

Solar Panel Voltage visualized over a few days

We may add a temperature / humidity sensor to see how that corresponds with voltage as well. More on that later.

The other component of this piece is the data visualization. We would like to make a physical sculpture to visualize this data, ideally made with ferrofluid. Ferrofluid is an amazing medium – essentially tiny magnetic particles suspended in liquid. When they are near a magnetic field, the liquid takes on spike-like patterns, whose heights and proximity depend upon the strength of the magnetic field.

Ideally, we want to use electromagnets to activate the data visualization. The electromagnets would be beneath a basin of ferrofluid. We would send varied voltage through them according to the data from the solar panel. Hopefully we could make the visualization run through the ferrofluid like a standing wave. One thing we need to keep in mind is that “graphing” our data with ferrofluid drastically reduces the resolution. Actually, in order to collect our data in the first place we are dividing the voltage by about 5.7 with a voltage divider (2 resistors whose values are in proportion of 1:5.7). However, this makes is so we don’t blow up our Arduino, and if we want to play the data back, that would be the voltage we could send from the Arduino anyway.

Here are some photos of tests we’ve done with ferrofluid, to see what magnets and movements affect what kind of patterns.

ferrofluid with electromagnet beneath