• Question: how do we get energy from the sun

    Asked by 289furk43 to Chris, Joanne, Kathryn, Kieran, Sarah on 7 Nov 2017. This question was also asked by 895furk43, 238furk43, 893furk27.
    • Photo: Kathryn Schoenrock

      Kathryn Schoenrock answered on 7 Nov 2017:

      This is such a cool question- The sun is a giant ball of Helium and Hydrogen. The light that leaves the sun travels in waves just like those on the surface of the ocean and those waves are like packages of energy. Everything receives those packages in a different way… so we grow food with it because plants have light trapping machinery in them that transfers energy to sugars etc.

      In terms of solar power- I don’t know exactly how that works but it’s cool to see it getting more popular. It’s amazing to see what we can create when we mimic nature- we call it biomimicery.

    • Photo: Chris Werner

      Chris Werner answered on 8 Nov 2017:

      Super question! First off lots of animals need the suns energy, lizards need the sun’s heat to warm up their blood and move, plants need the suns energy to photosynthesise. Without the sun, there would be no life on Earth. Plain and simple!

      But your question is probably more aimed at how we use the sun’s energy for renewable resources. Solar-powered photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity by exciting electrons in silicon cells using the photons of light from the sun. These cells consist of a positive and a negative film of silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. As the photons of the sunlight beat down upon these cells, they knock the electrons off the silicon. The negatively-charged free electrons are attracted to one side of the silicon cell, which creates an electric voltage that can be collected and channeled! This current is gathered by wiring the individual solar panels together in series to form a solar photovoltaic array.

      I remember being in Spain on a field trip and there were fields of mirrors which reflected the sun’s light up to a big tower, which then concentrates the light sending it down to the base of the tower. I’m not entirely sure that’s how it works, but it’d be pretty damn hot up there!

    • Photo: Sarah Guerin

      Sarah Guerin answered on 9 Nov 2017:

      A really important concept in physics is the conservation of energy- all energy can be converted into new forms of energy. The sun gives off heat energy and light energy- same as a lightbulb. We can convert this energy into electrical energy (solar panels), chemical energy (growing plants, cooking food), and even movement (look up radiometers- they are cool devices that spin around when sunlight shines on them).