Sun’s Rays Harnessed to Run Steam Engine (Nov, 1936)

Sun’s Rays Harnessed to Run Steam Engine

One of man’s great ambitions— to harness the sun to a steam engine—has been achieved. Dr. C. G. Abbot, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, has developed a solar heater and demonstrated that it would operate a one-half horsepower steam engine with sufficient efficiency for commercial purposes. The sun’s rays are his fuel. Caught in three parabolic cylindrical mirrors of sheet aluminum, the rays are reflected in high concentration upon tubes of Pyrex glass. Passing through two concentric tubes of glass respectively one and one-fourth and seven-eighths inch in diameter, the rays reach a central one-half inch Pyrex tube which is metal plated on top and contains a black chemical, a chlorinated diphenyl compound to which a small amount of lampblack is added so that the liquid absorbs virtually all the sun’s rays. Although liquid at ordinary temperatures, it still does not boil or flash at 662 degrees Fahrenheit. Between the concentric tubes a vacuum is maintained so that the heat of the liquid is retained. Superheated, this chemical is circulated through pipes to a boiler where it generates steam. Experimentally, this solar heat engine had an over-all efficiency of fifteen per cent in producing steam power. Dr. Abbot believes the time may come when, with coal and oil supplies dwindling, sun power may become essential. Even with the apparatus available today, he says, the sun can be harnessed for cooking, refrigeration, evaporation and small power plants. Ranches and communities in cloudless regions are manifesting interest in development of sun power.

  1. Bob says: February 22, 20088:45 am

    Nice to see a government administrator actually doing something, even if someone else did most of the work. It looks like the was actually involved.

  2. Brian says: May 15, 20085:28 am

    Wow… coal and oil supplies were dwindling back in the 30’s?? How have we survived so long?? Hmmm… there must me more coal and oil than we think…

  3. Arglebarglefarglegleep says: September 1, 20103:24 pm

    C.G. Abbot…. As head of the Smithsonian he would have a lot of contact with various disciplines outside his of astrophysics.

    Hubbert peak… [Wasn’t available in 1930]

    ‘…Even in the 1920’s, some geologists had warned that the fossil fuel deposits would soon be used up. They were ignored, criticized, or denied. …” http://www.carlaemery.c… Admittedly, like anyone supporting plate tectonics at the time, they were the lunatic fringe of science.

Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.