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With laptop and math for a better future: power generation from sunbeams


Nuclear and coal power have taken their toll. The world needs new, clean energy. But how can we design power plants that do without CO2 emissions and nuclear waste? And can mathematics and computers help answer this question? The answer is yes! In this workshop, pupils in small teams plan a solar power plant that uses mirrors and solar radiation to generate energy. Anyone who enjoys mathematics, likes to work with the computer and perhaps wonders how he can improve our future with it, is exactly right here!

The pupils get to know so-called Fresnel power plants. This is one of the innovative technologies that are traded for sun-rich countries as models for the future of energy production. The operation of these power plants is relatively simple: mirrors reflect solar rays onto a pipe through which water passes. The water is heated to steam, which drives an electric power generating turbine. As the position of the sun changes during the day, the inclination angles of the mirrors must always be adjusted during the day.

The pupils are concerned with the question of how the power plant has to be built and operated in order to generate as much energy as possible. To do this, they experiment in small groups using an interactive MATLAB simulation program or GeoGebra-worksheets. The pupils evaluate real data with the help of the simulation program with a graphical feedback and train technical competences in the areas of trigonometry and functions.

The workshop was developed in cooperation with scientists from industry and RWTH Aachen University, who are researching the development and optimization of Fresnel power plants.

This module is recommended for intermediate classes that deal with angles and trigonometric functions at the time of CAMMP day. The module serves as a supplement to the lessons.
However, the module can also be implemented without the use of trigonometric functions.

Duration: from 4 hours (incl. lunch break)
Contents: Geometry, trigonometry, angle relations in triangles
Previous knowledge: Angle pairs
Participants: Mathematics courses in or above eighth grade
Created by: Martin Frank, Philipp Otte, Pascal Richter, Christina Roeckerath
Registration: Appointments can be arranged individually by e-mail.