Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Maker Faire Pics

The Maker Faire was last weekend, and it was incredible! I think the natural teacher in me came out when I explained how the light pipe worked and why I decided to build it. Real fun! It was also wonderful to hear everyone's great ideas and suggestions. I'll be incorporating some of them into future prototypes for sure.

I must add that this fiber light pipe idea would have never been realized without the help of a handful of really great friends. Dan's stand design was inspired. Jess's etches were amazing. And Shay's big 'ol sign was eye catching and beautiful. Also, Shay stayed up with me until the wee hours of Saturday morning to make sure every part of the pipe was good to go. And then there were the folks that helped me man the stand. Jill was a perfect fiber light pipe spokesperson throughout the weekend, masterfully aligning the dish to the sun and rattling off optical factoids. Jess, Kale, Shay, Dan, Beanie, and Kim were there to take over when Jill and I had to take some breaks. I can't thank you guys enough!

For those of you who weren't able to see the fiber light pipe prototype at the fair, I'll explain the setup: We had a the solar collector mounted to a wooden 2-axis mount. A secondary mirror and heat absorbing glass were mounted to the collector. In the center of the collector was a rubber stopper with a five-foot bundle of eight fibers. These fibers led into an enclosed box (a 2'x2'x2' PVC pipe box covered in black fabric), and were attached to an acrylic pane with etches on it. The pane had reflective tape along the edges and it laid on top of a mylar-covered base. When the dish was aligned with the sun, the panel lit up the inside of the box.

Now for some pictures.

Figuring out how to set up:

The setup:

Explaining it to some folks:

The sun melted a plastic knob when the earth rotated:

Sunlight in a black box (no flash, no external light):

Jill and me toward the end of the day on Saturday:

One last thing. You can find the link to the Current TV video about me and the project here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

SF Chronicle + Fear of Fire

A beautifully written story about the Maker Faire just came out in the San Francisco Chronicle, and it features the light pipe project. Cool! Justin did a great job, but I'd like to add one tiny clarification. I did not actually build a periscope-like light pipe prior to this attempt, though I think the article makes it sound like I had. Probably what happened is this: during the interview for the story I described my thoughts on the potential ways to bring light to the living room, and that's when I described a more typical light pipe design. Not a big deal. The error just adds a little experience to my resume. Oh! And another thing: the picture of me is ridiculously serious. For a view of my not-so-serious personality and the project, check out a introductory video I made.

And now for some thoughts on heat:

The Maker Faire starts tomorrow, and there's still a bit of work that needs to be done. I'm mounting the secondary mirror as well as a heat filter tonight. I got the mirror from an amazing telescope store in SF called Scope City. The guys there were willing to listen to me drone on and on about how awesome this light pipe will be. Andthey sent me home with a mirror from a telescope and a ring holder with thumbscrews, something like the pictures in a previous post.

Steve from Scope City also highlighted the heat issues, which, of course, are crucial to consider. Initially, I was expecting to use a makeshift secondary mirror that probably wouldn't be extremely reflective, and, I thought that might keep the heat under control. But the telescope mirror is extremely high quality, so a lot of light and heat is going to be aimed at the fiber. Still, I should have been thinking about the heat problem from the beginning since people use these sorts of solar collectors to cook food and boil water.

So...I ordered heat-absorbing glass from an online vendor called Anchor Optics. It's rated to 300 C, and it should arrive today. That should keep the fibers from melting and the whole contraption from going up in flames.

UPDATE: So, that ridiculously serious picture in the Chronicle? It's been lollinated by my good friend Katie B.