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How to harness Sun's energy by making a solar concentrator

Updated on September 23, 2009

A solar reflector can be made very easily. The beauty of a parabolic reflector is that you can concentrate parallel rays of sun on a particular point. It can be used for various purposes. It has applications in solar cooking, pasteurization and even in air-conditioning(No, this is not a typo). The design I am presenting is very cost-effective. Aluminium is chosen as the reflective surface. The reason for not choosing mirrors is that they are very fragile and can cause injury to its handlers. They are expensive also. While Aluminium sheets are cheap and light weight. As far as reflectance is concerned Aluminium's reflectance is second to glass mirrors only. So you should not worry about reflectance.

You need following things for your reflector:

  • a fiber glass dish antenna
  • Aluminium sheet
  • Glue
  • A pair of scissors or a sharp knife
  • marker
  • tape

Step 1 Buy a parabolic dish antenna.

Visit any shop which is selling fiber glass dish antenna. Ask him to give you a 6ft diameter dish (or of any size you wish). Don't buy the transponder because you are not going to use this antenna for watching television channels. This would reduce the price. You can also visit a nearby junkyard to buy an old dish antenna, since it would cost much lesser. Make sure that the dish antenna which you are buying is made of fiber glass because this material is light-weight and easy-to-handle. This dish antenna would cost you around $12.

Step 2 Do some calculations

You have to perform some calculations now.

Measure the diameter of the parabolic dish(Do it even if the shopkeeper told you the diameter. You should have exact value of diameter.)

Calculate the circumference by using the following formula:

circumference = 3.14*(diameter of the dish antenna)

Although this formula is for circle we can use it for a parabolic dish as well to make our calculations fast and easy.

The value of circumference which you are going to get from the above formula will be equal to the length of the sheet that is required.

Find the radius just by dividing diameter by 2. (radius=diameter/2)

Remember, you have to buy the sheet whose width is a bit larger than the radius of the parabolic dish.

You have now calculated two values:

1. required length of the sheet

2. required width of the sheet

Step 3 Buy aluminium sheet and glue

Buy aluminium sheet and glue from a hardware store. Aluminium sheets are usually available in the form of rolls. Whenever somebody goes to buy some sheet, shopkeeper just asks the required length. You have to take care of

the width also. Ask him the width. Do not buy the sheet having width smaller than the "required width".

Choose a glue that can stick to any surface. Ask the shopkeeper if you have any difficulty in choosing the right glue.

Step 4 Cut the aluminium sheets

Now we have to cut the sheet into several triangular pieces. For that, you have to divide your sheet into six to eight equal parts. Divide the required length by 6 or 8. Mark points at equal intervals (the calculated value)

Cut the sheets perpendicularly to get rectangular shapes

When you are done with pasting these triangles all along the circumference, leave the glue to dry.

After a few hours your reflector is ready to bedazzle anyone(or anything)!

Support 'mechanism' for hanging pot and keeping it at the focus

To make the supporting mechanism you will need:

  • Antenna pole
  • Strut
  • Some steel wire
  • Empty used paint bucket
  • Sand
  • Cement
  • Nut and bolt

Things you will need

Choose a pole that has several through holes in it. Make some concrete slurry and pour it in the paint bucket. Now insert the pole vertically into the slurry. Let it dry.

When the concrete solidifies, bolt the strut to the pole. Strut should have holes at both ends.

Use one hole to bolt it to pole and the other to hang wire.

Adjust the location of the pot by loosening and tightening the bolt.

Pot can be hanged using the steel wire, as shown below.

Please note that this solar parabolic cooker can be used as a hot dog solar cooker. Make sure that while implementing this solar cooker project you do not touch the hot solar cooker as it can cause your skin to burn.



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    • davidmurree profile image

      David Murree 

      6 years ago from USA

      really fantastic for new bies like me

    • magnoliazz profile image


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Sorry, you lost me.

      I don't know if I would go through this thing to cook a few hotdogs.

    • greathub profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Earth

      @Mechanical Engineer:

      I agree with you, what I have given is an approximation. This would leave only few portions of the antenna without aluminium. . . . only an insignificant portion.

    • profile image

      Mechanical Engineer 

      8 years ago

      My friend...the antenna that you have presented

      is an oval you can`t cut them like Pi*(Diameter), you have a-long Axis and A short Axis...

      as shown on the picture that the focal point isn`t located at the center, so it`s not a full parbola shape,,,it`s an offset one.

    • profile image

      Solar man 

      9 years ago

      Great project to do with the kids,thanks :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You cannot buy fiberglass satellite dishes. They are all made of metal. And by the ignorant, illiterate comments and questions, I doubt most people here could build this. They think this will power their home! It's just for heating water or cooking food. Yes, steam can generate electricity but this would be much too complicated for the readers here.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      when i was in need of a project i get it.real lucky.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Im sorry. Didn't realize this was a science project. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and when I catch up its just sad. :) Awesome article.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Can you transfer this energy into the home? Lower power bills. We also live on the coast and if a hurricane is out there, it will probably be coming to see us. If would be awesome to harness it into the house so we could have some kind of power. Also if you were to converge some of it would you have to get permits or notify power company? Please tell us more!

    • greathub profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Earth


      position the parabolic dish so that it faces the sun.

      hang the pot so that it is at the center of focus of sun's rays i.e. where all the rays are converging.

      You can "feel" the center of focus just by waving your hand over the parabolic dish and feel where heat is maximum.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm not sure if I missed something, but how do we use it once we've harnessed it. loved the article.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      yes i see the pot is the dish- righty ho, i like the other solar page too- thanks

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      im sorry if i am dumb but your article doesn't seem to round it up and say where to put the dish- is the 'dish' the 'pot' or is this where we put the water? if so where do we hang the dish and can we use more than 1- thanksalot

    • profile image

      A Majeed 

      10 years ago

      Please I need information related with mirroring fiber glass dish reflector with chemicals,

      or please inform me from where these chemicals are availabe.


    • profile image

      Sim Garner 

      11 years ago

      Great information on building a solar reflector. I have gotten interested in going green, finding for myself and helping others find ways to reduce pollution from the creation of energy. I believe that the use of vertical wind turbines and <a href="" rel="nofollow">solar panels for homes</a> are a logical alternative for the average home owner.

    • cgull8m profile image


      11 years ago from North Carolina

      Great job, keep writing hubs like this and what you find more interesting. I wish I could do this above solar stuff, looks awesome. I have bookmarked it for future use. Well done.

    • ratnaveera profile image


      11 years ago from Cumbum

      Really appreciable job!


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