During the Innovation Bridge (an event held at the CSIR earlier this year) the Minister of Science and Technology in South Africa, Minister Naledi Pandor made it clear that we have some of the world’s best researchers right here on our home ground. That in the coming few years, with support from the Department, South Africa is going to produce some of the best innovations that will solve many issues that we face today globally.
With all the power cuts that the country has been facing lately, South African researchers at the University of Pretoria (UP) are now taking action and building a new prototype device which turns solar energy into electrical power.
It is important to understand the value of solar energy and how we are all dependent on it one way or the other. While plants and animals both use it for producing essential nutrients in their cells, humans use the sun rays to produce Vitamin D in their bodies. People all over the world are gradually learning about this valuable resource and are finding ways to replace conventional energy sources.
The idea that this new prototype device could one day provide power to homes in remote areas and water-scarce areas of South Africa is something that we can all look forward to, considering that there are still villages today who can only dream of the idea of having electricity. That is the promise that comes with this exciting prototype device, to power homes in those disadvantaged areas.
The solar collector of the prototype device was built and tested by Willem le Roux, who is due to be awarded his doctorate this month from the University of Pretoria during the Autumn Graduations.
Le Roux, who is fascinated by the idea of getting free energy from the sun, constructed the solar collector as part of his PhD. In his PhD project, he used energy from the sun to heat air which then can be turned into electrical energy using a domestic heating system that also produces electricity called microturbine. Le Roux’s PhD work mostly included building and testing a 5m solar collector dish together with a solar receiver.
The system will be ready in a few years because the team still needs to do extensive research and testing in order to enhance the device’s efficiency. This system has a conversion rate of about 30% and it offers more solar-to-electrical efficiency than what solar panels have to offer.
And that is what Africa is all about, finding innovative ways to deal with present day problems and effective future planning. Well done to the UP researchers!