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Posts tagged ‘solar power’

Solar Power – Active vs. Passive

Solar power is one of the great potential sources of energy we hope will replace FUninthesun polluting fossil fuels over the coming years. Specturm Scientifics has sold many teaching toys that use solar energy to demonstrate different effects, But did you know there were technically two types of Solar Energy generation? They are called active and passive solar energy and how they work is very different, despite coming from the same energy source (of course, pretty much everything has the sun as an energy source when you dig deep enough). Let’s discuss passive solar energy and the items we have that demonstrate it first:


If you’ve ever walked barefoot on a black asphalt street on a very hot, sunny day you are experiencing Passive Solar power in action. You might be fine on the brighter colored concrete sidewalk, but the black asphalt absorbs heat much better and can get uncomfortable to walk on barefoot. This is a very rudimentary demonstration of the sun’s power.

Another example is when you use a magnifying glass to concentrate light to start a campfire. Here the surface area of the magnifying glass is all concentrated into a single point that can get quite hot.

So how do we use this kind of solar power to make power that we can use? Well the present technique is Conctrated Solar Power. With this a large fields of parabolic or other curved mirrors are set up to track the sun and conctrate as much of the light as possible. The light is concntrated at some central point where a thermochemical reactionPS10_solar_power_tower  or heat engine is placed to convert the solar energy into electrcity.

While we lack the ability to ‘scale this down’ to a toy level, there are more than a few solar demonstration items that can be used to show the power of passive solar energy. The first being called (surprise) Solar Science


With this kit students will heat water using a passive solar heating system as well as as construct a miniature solar oven where they can cook and egg!

OK, so what if you want to step this up a bit? Well there is the Sun Spot Solar Oven



The Sun Spot is a much larger version of the solar oven you build in the Solar Science kit. Large reflective panels concentrate light at a wired point. Objects can be placed there (such as a hot dog). Temperatures at that point can easilt reach 350 degrees F.

Active Solar Energy

Active solar energy generation is probably more familiar to most of us, especially as solar panels become more ubiquitous. We use them to charge our smartphones, they power garbage compactors right outside our store.

2015-08-25 13.51.54

Active solar power uses photvoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. While this does have the advantage of direct electricity generation (no thermochenical or heat engines are needed at a focal point) they do have a problem with efficiency.  The solar cells you can see on this trash compactor will each generate about 0.5V and 2W in direct sunlight, with 18 cells in total, you have about 9V and  36W. Presumably the power generated goes to a battery that can operate the compactor motor when it has sufficient power.

As for active solar items we have, where do we begin?

Solar Owl?


Solar Science Kit?


Solar Powered Rainbow Maker?


Solar Mechanics Kit?


So many Solar choices!

Want to buy Solar Science Toys?



New STEM Wind and Solar Generating Kits from Picoturbine

For a couple of years we have been offering various wind gnereating kits such as the Savonius Wind Turbine. These kits do quite well but schools may find they need more to teach energy generation as part of a STEM program. So now Picoturbine offers multiple kits for Wind and Solar energy generation.  There are several designs that depend on the size & design of the windmill (Mini, Standard, and Limitless) as well as the systems ability to generate AC, DC or both.



MOVA Solar Powered Spinning Globes

We’ve been waiting for these to come in, and now they are here. We are talking about the MOVA Solar Powered Spinning Globes!


These globes sit on their base and with just a little bit of light will spin. If you pick up the globe it will still spin! Put it on the table and it continues to spin! There is no cord, no batteries, and really odd is no obvious solar cells.

The secret is that the the globe is actually immersed in a liquid that in turn is inside a clear acrylic globe. There are solar panels located behind the printed image of the globe. Since the globe only needs a little bit of light to runt he drive mechanism this works out fine. Let;s take a look at a video of the globe in action:

The MOVA globes are a great desktop toy. and don’t just come as a globe. We also have ones that are the surface of the Moon


And also one that is the Planet Jupiter



There are more of these MOVA globes available and we will be adding more very soon. Keep an eye out on this blog for more Solar Spinning Globes.

Want to buy a solar spinning Earth? Moon? Jupiter?


Fun, Fun, Fun in the (classroom) sun, sun sun!

Its the cold, hard winter roaring outside right now, but that is little reason to not consider the study of our nearest star. We have a whole set of equipment for classroom or home-study that shows how our sun changes position through the year and how powerful its rays are. Let’s start with a couple of devices that demonstrate the latter.

First up is the Solar Furnace:


The Solar Furnace is a 12″ diameter mirrored parabolic dish. A copper bracket is attached to it where various materials can be attached (paper, wood,  small bits of meat). When properly aligned with the sun the intense concentration of heat is enough to burn or even melt certain materials. The power of 12″ diameter of sunlight (113 square inches) being concentrated to a small point demonstrates how powerful sunlight can be and how that energy can be harnessed. A teacher’s guide with 6 experiments is included and is for grades 3+.

Continuing on the same vein is the more down-to-earth Sun Spot Solar Oven.


The Sun Spot Solar Oven does not use a parabolic dish but instead employs mirrored surfaces aimed towards a central area of the oven that can produce temperatures of 350 degrees! This is hot enough to do some actual cooking! In fact some classes have done actual solar cook-offs. Includes a teacher’s manual.

OK, so the sun is powerful, especially when you concentrate its rays. But depending on the time of year your solar furnace and oven may work better than other times. Why is that? Well the sun’s position changes throughout the year. This makes for a great curriculum project that can be aided with the Suntracker


With this fascinating sky dome, students can plot the position of the sun for any given time and date. An effective tool for illustrating Earth/Sun relationships. Learn about how the sun changes height and position as the seasons change. This in turn lets students learn about why the seasons change!

Want to see more Earth & Sun Science Products?


Build a Solar Powered Rainbow Maker!

We’ve carried the Solar Powered Rainbow Maker pretty much since we opened.


Its an excellent gift, and great for anyone who just wants some color in their room. The solar panel powers the motor that spins a crystal – causing rainbows to be made all throughout the room.

This is a great idea, but when it comes to being a science store we always thought – why couldn’t there be a version where you build this? Its a simple enough design, with colorful gears and a durable solar panel. So why not a kit version? Well, another company felt that way as well it seems and has made the Solar Rainbow Making Kit:

This kit costs less than the pre-built model, and gives both kids and adults a chance to build an awesome toy! The parts are laid out in a simple design:

The overall look-and-feel is very different since this is a different company and they have copyright concerns. But if anything they have improved on the original design: The system is held on by two suction cups, and there are three crystals that are spun by the solar cell, not just one!

The kit can be assembled by children ages 6+, and being solar powered it requires no batteries! The kit is just $19.99, which is almost $8 less than the assembled model.



Solar Powered Butterfly

We’ve got a new nifty Solar Powered Toy in stock, its the Solar Powered Butterfly!

This is a butterfly that flaps its wings in sunlight. You put it together and color the wings as you like, then place it in a sunny window as shown. The solar panel then powers the wings to flap!

As mentions, this is a toy that you assemble yourself. The kit arrives disassembled and uncolored as you see here:

Solar panel, motor, clamps, wings, and suction cups are all included, as well as paint to color up the wings. You can follow the pattern on the box or do it your own way! Full color instructions are included!

This is a great project that teaches kids some basic circuitry, solar power, as well as letting them show their artistic side!  For ages 8+.


Solar Powered Frolicking Flower

Sometimes we get some cool toys in the store that have a bit of science, but are mostly just fun. The new Solar powered frolicking flower is one of those toys.

Place this ‘flower’ in sunlight and it will bob, weave, and dance.  Its a fun toy for a windowsill, garden or other sunny location! Its stands just over 4″ tall, so it can fit between real plants.  Its durable enough to live outdoors, so it can add a bit of fun to a garden or windowbox.

Let’s see the frolicking flower in action:

Hydrogen & Renewable Energy Kits Part 1

Spectrum Scientifics has recently added a bunch of new Renewable Energy Kits & cars to our product lineup. We’ll be covering the kits today and the cars on Thursday. These kits are produced by Horizon and cover a wide range of renewable energy sources. The primary theme in these kits is to use the energy generation to produce hydrogen gas, which is a fuel.

First up is the main kit: The Renewable Energy Education Kit

The Renewable Energy Education Kit

Renewable Energy Education Kit

This kits covers all the ground for renewable energy: wind, solar, bio and so on. Various methods are used to generate power to convert ordinary water into hydrogen gas, which is then stored.  A sample set of pages from the included education guide can be downloaded for review.

The rest of the kits are actually just parts of the main Renewable Energy Education Kit, allowing teachers to concentrate on specific aspects of energy generation without the cost for parts they do not want.

The Hydro-Wind Kit, as may be implied, concentrates on using the wind to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen gas.

The Hydro Wind Kit

The Wind-Pitch Kit is related to the Hydro-Wind kit but does not generate Hydrogen gas. Instead students are given multiple windmill blades to work with to generate the greatest amount of power to run lights and music (LED lights and music make included!)

The Wind Pitch Kit

The Wind Pitch Kit

The Bio-Energy Discovery Kit works by converting ethanol (alcohol) into electricity without any combustion. the entire reaction is part of a next-generation bio-fuel technology.

The Bio-Energy Discovery Kit

Bio-Energy Discover Kit

Each of these kits makes a wonderful introduction to the world of renewable energy. They are excellent for personal use or for the classroom. Each kit comes with a Renewable Energy Education Cirriculum CD which has the following:

  • Renewable Energy Education Manual
  • Horizon Experiment Manual
  • Flash Animations
  • New Science Kit Assembly Guides
  • Technical Support Section with Videos

Add some of these fine ideas to your curriculum today!