2007 - PJAS Astronomy Award Winners

Grades 7-8:

Effect of Design and Cleaning on the Power of Solar Cells
Danielle N. Kumpf (Providence Heights Alpha School)

Project Description:

The main purpose of my research was to see what design of solar lamp is most effective in converting solar energy absorbed in the day to light at night. Furthermore, I was interested in the effect of a cleaning program on the effectiveness of photovoltaic testing; one lamp design was a top mounted lamp and the other was side mounted. I also used wire connectors, a Radio Shack digital voltmeter with a 0.01 volt accuracy, and Windex. Before I started the experimental part of my research I disassembled each lamp. Next I placed a wire connector on both ends of each battery and slide the batteries back into the battery slopt of each lamp. One ends of the wire connectors were still attached to the ends of the batteries and the other ends were sticking out of the lamps. During my experiment I measured the voltage of each lamp three times a day, all days possible. The first measurement occurred first thing in the morning, the second in the mid-afternoon, and the final at night. In phase two, the three lamps of each design were split up into three different treatment routines. One of each design was cleaned with Windex; the final lamp of each design was left untreated as a control. Data collected, per lamp per measurement, included voltage averages, maxima, minima, and rages; a standard deviation was also calcuated for each design. In conclusion, there were no large differences between the averages of the lamp designs under ideal summer conditions; the top mounted lamps did show a greater swing between maximum and minimum daily voltages. Finally, under summer and fall climate conditions there were no differences due to cleaning or design of photovoltaic cell lamps.

Grades 9-12:

Lunar Soil: Known Liability, Discovered Asset
Thomas Pazamickas (Our Lady of Lourdes)

Project Description:

Lunar soil caused a wide variety of liabilities to both man and machine which were well documented during the Apollo missions. My project was designed to investigate a possible solution. My questions: Is it possible to sinter lunar soil (simulant) by exposing it to microwave energy? What will occur first? Lunar soil melt or the boiling of a cup of water? My hypothesis: 2.45 GHz microwaves will penetrate the skin depth of nanophase metallic iron found within lunar soil particles, due to its small grain size. The dielectric glass that encases the nanophase iron will serve as insulation, resulting in mini-conductors, distributing the absorbed heat to the surrounding soil. The microwave coupling with the metallic iron is strong enough that the soil will begin to melt before a cup of water can boil. My procedure was to form soil pellets using JSC-1A with 2 different concentrations of nanophase iron additive and heat them in the determined hot spot within a kitchen microwave oven. I then brought 240 ml. of water to its boiling point and compared heating times. The results showed it is possible to sinter lunar soil (simulant) by exposing it to 2.45 GHz microwave radiation, commonly used in kitchen microwave ovens, when there is sufficient nanophase iron present. The soil pellet heated, converted to a magma state, cooled and later solidified, leaving no evidence of loose soil particulate. The sinter rate of the soil simulant was faster than it took water to reach its boiling point indicating the coupling of microwave radiation is stronger with the np-Feš in the soil than it is with water.

Conclusion: The small grain size of the np-Feš can be penetrated by 2.45 GHz microwave radiation due to their skin depth even though iron is normally a reflective material when exposed to microwave radiation. np-Feš within lunar soil (simulant) is key to the sintering process. It couples more efficiently with microwave radiation than does water. Microwaving lunar soil (simulant) had rapid heating rates, and achieved high temperatures within a short amount of time using present technology. Exposing lunar soil to microwave radiation is one viable solution to overcoming soil liabilities.