Help keep your residential energy use down and have some fun at the same time with these do-it-yourself solar experiments!
The sun’s rays or solar energy can be harnessed to heat or power things and this is a renewable energy resource. There are many interesting and easy ways to witness first-hand the power of solar energy.
Harness the sun’s power to cook a nice treat by making your very own solar oven. The first material you will need is a pizza box or cardboard box with a lid. The next items you will need is a sheet of clear plastic (such as a file sleeve or page protector), foil, stiff wire, or pencil (a pen or marker will work as well) and tape (or glue). The first step is to cut out a ¾ square of the lid of your cardboard box or pizza box. This will act as your solar panel, so be sure a side is still attached and that the square cut is large enough. Next tape (or carefully glue) the piece of foil to cover underneath. Step two is to open up the cardboard box and attach the sheet of plastic with tape to cover underneath the lid. Make sure to seal this part carefully because it will be needed to trap the heat in the oven to cook your food. The third step is to use foil to line the entire inside of your box. Step four is to use wire to wedge open small holes in the sides of your box or use an item like a pencil to keep the box lid propped open. Step five is to use your completed DIY solar oven to cook your food. An easy solar oven friendly food to cook is nachos. Place some chips with shredded cheese (or other food items) inside your solar oven, put in a sunny spot with the lid closed, and “solar panel” in direct sunlight, wait until the food is warm (or nacho cheese is melted) and eat! This solar experiment is great for making a fun snack and learning about an easy way to harness heat energy from sunlight.
2. Sun Dehydrated Fruit
This next project shows how anyone can use the power from sunlight to dry fruit. The first step is to thinly slice half of one apple. Step two is to put the slices of apple on a baking sheet (preferably a metal baking sheet or something similar such as a pie tin) and leave them somewhere safe outside in direct sunlight. The third step is to have the fruit slices in direct sun for 24 hours (bring in the fruit slices at night and put them back outside in the morning if needed).
Notice how the fruit slices have changed shape or size. If needed leave out in sunlight for another 24 hours until apple slices are properly dehydrated. This project shows the process of how sunlight dehydrates food over time and is a truly useful resource.
3. Ice and Sunlight Absorption or Reflection
Another fun solar experiment is testing the effects of sunlight by melting ice. The materials you will need to conduct this experiment are two clear glass bowls or cookware, two ice cubes, one piece of white paper, and one piece of black paper. Step one is to place the two pieces of paper six inches apart from each other outside in a spot with direct sunlight (such as on the sidewalk or driveway). The second step is to set a glass dish on top of each paper and place the piece of ice in the center of the bowl. Step three is to keep checking the ice after at least five minutes to keep track of which ice cube is melting the fastest. Depending on where you live, the time of day, and other circumstances it could take up to thirty minutes until the ice cubes are completely melted. Both cubes of ice should have started to melt at the same rate until one of the black paper completely melted first. The sun’s rays give off light and heat which can be reflected or absorbed. The white paper bounced the sunlight’s heat and light back which kept the ice a small amount cooler. While the black paper soaked up the sun’s heat and light and heat the ice making it melt a bit more quickly. These are some of the basic principles that allow solar panels to harness sunlight and allow us to use solar energy to power our homes.
4. Sunlight and Fading Colors
This final solar experiment is fun and easy to do. You will need paper, paint or colors (such as crayons or markers), scissors and tape. The first step is to paint or color any kind of artwork on a piece of paper (or use colored construction paper). Step two is to cut out a shape like a square or a circle and tape it to the middle of the colored piece of paper. Step three is to leave it out in a dry place with direct sunlight ( a window sill or balcony works too) for up to a week and watch as the sun causes the colors to change or fade. The process happens because sunlight contains UV (ultraviolet) rays which cause a chemical reaction that breaks down dyes or colors causing them to fade or lighten over time.
Team Sungenia hopes these solar experiments help you have fun while learning about solar energy at the same time. We love talking solar! Contact Sungenia for answers to your solar questions or for more information.
Sungenia’s mission is to make the solar process as simple and honest as possible, provide the best solution, and to make as many happy friends as we can.