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Design Science

A Five-Meter Magnifying Glass Uses the Sun’s Immense Power to Melt Metal

November 2, 2022

Grace Ebert

A photo of a giant magnifying glass-style machine illuminated by sunlight

“The Solar Metal Smelter.” All images © Jelle Seegers, shared with permission

Anyone who spent time outside with a magnifying glass as a kid is aware of the instrument’s power to generate a staggering amount of heat and even start a fire when hit with sunlight. Designer Jelle Seegers harnesses that practice in a new project he presented as part of the Design Academy Eindhoven student show at this year’s Dutch Design Week.

“The Solar Metal Smelter” uses a square polycarbonate sheet that Seegers carved with circles to mimic the convex lens of a magnifying glass. Extending about five meters wide, the material is embedded in a frame made from upcycled stainless steel, with an attached hand crank that needs to be turned every ten minutes to keep the sun focused on the correct spot. Once heated, the smelter reaches up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and can liquefy zinc, aluminum, and other metals that are then poured into various sand molds. The designer estimates that the device generates about four kilowatts of energy.

In a conversation with Dezeen, Seegers shares that he produced the machine to reduce the reliance on electricity and to better utilize the sun’s power. He says:

Electrical solar panels, they never have an efficiency of more than about 20 percent. Only 20 percent of the sunlight gets converted into electricity, so we need a huge amount of solar panels to create a huge amount of electrical energy. But if you just take the sun’s heat, and you only bend it and direct it, you don’t need to do this complex conversion to electricity. And for that reason, you can achieve an efficiency of about 95 percent.

Seegers plans to scale up the project in the coming months and has been working on a variety of carbon-neutral machines, including the pedal-powered tool grinder shown below. For a similar solar-powered design, check out this sinter that uses sunlight and sand to make glass.

 

A photo of a piece of polycarbonate scratched with circles

The lens of the machine

A photo of a giant magnifying glass-style machine illuminated by sunlight

A photo of a giant magnifying glass-style machine illuminated by sunlight

A photo of a man shaping sand casts for molten metal to be poured into

Seegers shaping the casts for molten metal to be poured into

A photo of a man pressing on the petal of a metal tool grinding machine

Seegers using the pedal-powered tool grinder

 

 

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Science

Spectacular Footage Captures a NASA Probe as it Touches the Sun for the First Time

December 20, 2021

Grace Ebert

NASA marked an impressive milestone when its Parker Solar Probe was the first ever to touch the sun and return earlier this year, and footage from its historic mission offers a stunning glimpse at the massive star’s upper atmosphere. The black-and-white timelapse shows a view from the probe as it hurls through a flurry of glowing bands and sparks that dart across the frame with celestial bodies panning in the background. These structures, known as coronal streamers, are part of the magnetic field surrounding the star—it doesn’t have a solid surface, meaning satellites like Parker come in contact with the fiery matter while flying through it. These sweeping plumes are often visible from Earth during solar eclipses.

During its travel, the probe also captured the Milky Way, Earth, and other planets from a rare angle, which astrophysicist Grant Tremblay labeled in the screenshots below. This was the satellite’s eighth attempt to permeate the sun’s atmosphere since it launched in 2018, and the successful mission garnered quite a few staggering statistics. NASA shares:

At closest approach, Parker Solar Probe hurtles around the sun at approximately 430,000 mph (700,000 kph). That’s fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second… At closest approach to the Sun, the front of Parker Solar Probe’s solar shield faces temperatures approaching 2,500 F (1,377 C). The spacecraft’s payload will be near room temperature.

For a similar look at the sun’s details, watch this timelapse chronicling one month of its evolution. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 



Photography

Sunlight Caps the Snowy Meili Mountain Range in a Majestic Photo Series

December 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Rainlook, shared with permission

Soaring more than 22,000 feet above the landscape, the frigid Meili mountain range sits at the edge of Yunnan’s Deqin County in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and borders the phenomenal “Three Parallel Rivers,” a UNESCO world heritage site where the Jinsha, Mekong, and Salween each run alongside each other but never converge. The imposing landmark, while steeped in cultural and historical significance, is majestic and sublime in its own right, features Shenzhen-based photographer Rainlook captures in a new series. Taken around 6 a.m., the images are shot when the first break of sunlight shines on the snow-streaked terrain, casting the mountain peaks in an ethereal glow while leaving the rest in nighttime shadows. We’ve gathered some of Rainlook’s photos here, but you can see the entire series on Behance.

 

 

 

 



Photography

A Massive Composite of 150,000 Images Reveals the Swirling, Feather-Like Details of the Sun

December 7, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Andrew McCarthy, shared with permission

From dark spots and wispy flares to coronal loops that burst upward in brilliant arches, a giant new composite by Andrew McCarthy (previously) exposes the intricate, swirling patterns that cloak the sun’s surface. “Fire and Fusion” is a 300-megapixel image captured at 2 p.m. on November 29 and the Arizona-based photographer’s most detailed shot of the celestial matter yet. “Our star is a chaotic ball of plasma. Planet-sized streams of plasma snake up from the surface, dwarfed by looming prominences and filaments,” he says. “Blinding bursts of energy stem from areas of heightened magnetic activity, pushing and pulling on the solar surface and creating fascinating patterns in the atmosphere.”

Prints and full-resolution files of the extraordinarily detailed shot are available on McCarthy’s site and Patreon, and you can explore more of his astrophotography on Instagram.

 

 

 



Science

A 5-Day Timelapse Documents 24 Hours of Sunlight at the South Pole

November 24, 2021

Grace Ebert

What does a full day of sun look like at the earth’s southernmost point? Robert Schwarz, who was stationed in the antarctic for 15 years as part of the experimental Keck project, filmed an illuminating timelapse while at the snowy location that shows the bright star floating above the horizon for an entire five-day period. Shot in March 2017, the footage captures the bright sky just before the first sunset in months, when the pole experiences a dark period from April to August.

Schwarz documents a variety of natural phenomena, including the dancing lights of the aurora australis, moon phases, and the Miky Way, on Vimeo. (via Kottke)

 

 

 



Photography Science

78,846 Photos of the Sun Are Stitched Together into a Mesmerizing Timelapse of Its Movements

November 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

Using data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, filmmaker Seán Doran composed an entrancing timelpase of the sun’s glowing coronal loops during a month-long period. The video project compiles 78,846 ångström-171 photographs from August 2014 that show the bright, curved structures, which are made of hot plasma, as they burst upward. Colorized in gold in the timelapse, the arced loops often form a bridge between dark sunspots, or places where powerful magnetic fields breach the surface and flow into the massive star’s atmosphere.

For similarly stunning glimpses at astronomical happenings, head to Doran’s YouTube, which features footage of Earth’s orbit, Comet Neowise, and the rugged topography of the Red Planet. (via PetaPixel)