EPA Grant Funds Development of Solar Water Heating System

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Siloam Springs, Ark. (August 26, 2009) - With the help of a $10,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), faculty and students at John Brown University are working to improve the water heating options for people in developing countries. In many parts of the world, when hot water is needed, it must be heated in a pot over a charcoal fire, a wood fire, or a gas flame. This time-consuming process to prepare hot water through small batches is also energy inefficient and often unaffordable, according to Dr. Larry Bland, associate professor of engineering at JBU. “Solar heaters are not a new concept,” said Bland. “What our research is trying to do is find a lower tech, low cost solution that can be used in underdeveloped regions of the world. They have to be both easily built and maintained with materials that will be readily available in these regions.” The solar water heater that is being developed with the help of the grant will replace various energy sources that currently depend on fossil fuels and contribute to air pollution. The system will utilize a parabolic trough that will focus the sun’s rays on a black water pipe. As the water heats it will flow uphill into the storage tank forcing the cold water at the bottom of the tank to enter the water pipe and continue the heating process. The angle of the trough will also be adjustable to account for best angle of incidence based on changing seasons and different latitudes. Along with creating hot water for various household needs, the water is expected to reach temperatures sufficient to destroy pathogenic bacteria and provide a secondary benefit of a system that works both as a heater and a water pasteurizer. The research project is being headed up by Bland and Dr. Young-Gurl Kim, professor of engineering along with the help of undergraduate research assistant Katie Sesler. Working on the development of the solar water heating system is an extension of Sesler’s Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Following graduation in May with a mechanical engineering degree, she will be attending the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia on a full-paid scholarship.

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