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Melting, Burning, and Generally Obliterating Stuff with the Power of the Sun

I always find that I discover cool stuff when I am teaching about it – right now, for example, I’m lecturing to my introductory Stage Lighting classes about reflection, refraction, the Index of Refraction, reflectance, normal angles, and all of that kind of stuff.  I love it, I’m a nerd to the Nth degree.  I’m also lucky that my research karma is good!

Something I find quite sexy is capturing solar rays for the purpose of just destroying stuff in a non-military way.  Yes, I’m one of those campers who loves campfires for the sheer awesome power of them.  I came across a few videos of people harnessing the awesome power of our Sun into a small few centimeter-square area for the purposes of, well, burning stuff.  I have two examples – one is an expensive solar capture device that focuses a few square meters of sun into an area of an inch, and the other is a homemade solar reflector made from a satellite dish.  Even though the cheaper one is cheaply made (I mean comparatively, not offensively), it harnesses some amazing solar power!

Check out this first video – a lab environment, a huge mirror, and thousands of degrees of sunlight:

Here’s the second video, a homemade SOLAR DEATH RAY!

Awesome.

Thanks Hack-N-Mod!

RPI Creates the Darkest Material On Earth

I came across an article recently written by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that discusses a discovery made by RPI – a material made from a loosely populated coating of carbon nanotubes that has a reflectance of 0.045. This is ground breaking – the current standard is 1.4%. Researchers have developed this material coating to facilitate better solar energy absorption, and this is a great thing considering that we need to develop some new technologies to overcome our addiction to oil. From the article:

“It is a fascinating technology, and this discovery will allow us to increase the absorption efficiency of light as well as the overall radiation-to-electricity efficiency of solar energy conservation,” said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university’s Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. “The key to this discovery was finding how to create a long, extremely porous vertically aligned carbon nanotube array with certain surface randomness, therefore minimizing reflection and maximizing absorption simultaneously.”

This is an excellent discovery on many levels. Outside of the uses for Solar Power Generation and increasing the amount of sunlight we can harness and utilize, a designer like myself has to consider the usage of such a material in the entertainment lighting arena as well – a material that reflects nearly no light almost makes lighting designers’ jokes about a “light sponge” for those spots on the stage or production where you don’t want light a reality. Imagine whole soft goods made of a coating of this material. Imagine scenic paint composed of this material. The possibilities are endless.

Check out the rest of RPI’s article here.