Sun powered engineering: College students enter solar decathlon; solar energy race car

Solar energy engineering has heated up with help from university students, Texas Instruments and Woodhead Industries. Automation, instrumentation, and controls benefit from solar energy for powering of remote instrumentation, sensors, and controls, as well as through development of lower powered devices.
By Control Engineering Staff October 23, 2007

Dallas, TX and Lincolnshire, IL —Solar energy engineering has heated up with help from university students,

Texas Instruments

and

Woodhead Industries

. Automation, instrumentation, and controls benefit from solar energy for powering of remote instrumentation, sensors, and controls, as well as through development of lower powered devices.

UPDATE :

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UPDATE : Panasonic World Solar Challenge final results announced

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Photos follow below.

University students are using solar cells and power conversion technology from Texas Instruments, which supports the 2007 Solar Decathlon as a contributing sponsor. The event brings together 20 global university teams in a competition to design, build, and operate the most energy-efficient and attractive solar-powered home. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon culminates with a solar village on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Oct. 12-20.

TI’s philosophy is that living green no longer has to be about deprivation or going without the latest convenience. It’s about creating smarter “greener” technology that can use the earth’s resources more efficiently.

Among key electronics used in a solar power system is the inverter, which converts direct current from solar panels into usable household alternating current and synchronizes that current with the grid. The majority of converters are based on TI’s digital signal processing (DSP) chip technology, which enables maximum system efficiency during all weather conditions, including cloudy and low light days. TI says its chip innovation is addressing power challenges to make solar power and sustainable designs increasingly viable, and many of the Solar Decathlon university teams are using TI technology in their solar-powered homes.

The only semiconductor company sponsoring the event, TI is donating hundreds of hours of employee volunteer time and sponsoring the official Decathlon photographer for the event. The company also hosted a sustainability workshop on Oct. 17 presented by its “green” crusader, Paul Westbrook, as well as a breakfast for competing students.

Woodhead Industries supplied Brad prodocts for the University of Waterloo’s Midnight Sun IX solar powered race car.

In other news, a solar powered race car from a university team is receiving a boost from Woodhead Industries, a sponsor of the University of Waterloo’s (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) Midnight Sun IX solar powered race car team. The company provided its Brad products for the solar powered race car.

The Midnight Sun IX team will participate in the Panasonic World Solar Challenge from Oct. 21 to 28 in Australia. The challenge is a 3,000 kilometer race (1,864 mi.) that spans the Australian outback, starting in Darwin and ending in Adelaide.

Panasonic provides more solar race photos

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“The team has a lot of success using the Brad products because of their durability, allowing the solar vehicle to operate under rugged environments like the Australian outback,” says Johnny Yip, a team member involved with the design of this year’s car, as quoted by Woodhead Industries.

Products used included BradConnectivity cabling for

DeviceNet

and 4-pole Micro-Change cables, as well as Molex connector sockets. Midnight Sun IX uses DeviceNet for the on-vehicle network allowing devices such as the motor controller and the drive control unit to communicate with each other.

Yip, a computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo and one of 100 students who were involved with the design and construction of the Midnight Sun IX, points out, “one great advantage is the product’s screw-in type connector. This provides extra robustness to our electrical connections when subjected to vibration on the road.”

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