2012 - PJAS state meeting astronomy projects

Grades 7-8:

Maximizing Power Density in Forward Osmosis
Rachel Steinig (Steinig Family Home School)

Project Description:

I experimented with Forward Osmosis, an alternative energy that's starting to get attention. Here's how it works: when you place sea water and fresh water in a tank, separated by a semi-permeable polymer membrane, the two solutions want to reach equilibrium in salt concentration. The membrane is permeable to water, but not to salt. So, the fresh water travels through the membrane. Now there?s more water on the sea water side of the membrane, and that rise in volume creates pressure that?s used to spin a turbine to generate power. I experimented with making both my solutions acidic, and also experimented with warming them, to see whether pH and temperature increase the flux (the volume of water that crosses a given area of membrane in a given amount of time). My hypothesis was that I would get more flux if I heated the solutions, and that if I made them more acidic, it wouldn't affect my flux. After a long search to make or find appropriate membranes (I ended up finding a company that donates them to researchers), I conducted 52 individual trials. I submerged membrane pouches filled with brine solution into pans filled with fresh water. For each trial, I measured the volume of water that crossed the membrane into the the pouch. After I completed these trials, I easily drew my conclusion that flux increases with temperature, and decreases with acidity. Therefore Forward Osmosis power plants could heat the water they are using and get more power.

Grades 9-12:

Mapping of the Orion Region in the Radio Spectrum
Shane Coffield (Trinity High School)

Project Description:

The purpose of my experiment was to observe the Orion Constellation with a radio telescope and compare my findings to other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. I hypothesized that a radio telescope should pick up intensities from typical radio sources such as interstellar gases and nebulae like the Orion Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula, rather than stars which are point sources. I carried out the experiment and collected my own data by scanning the region with the 40ft radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV. I received significant intensities from both nebulae as well as Barnard's Loop and the Meissa ring, which I was not expecting based upon my initial research. The observed intensities were used to compile a false-color radio map of the entire constellation. When compared to other wavelengths, I found that nebulae and gases stood out most in radio and infrared, while stars appeared more strongly in the x-ray and visible. I concluded that observing neutral hydrogen in the radio spectrum yields extremely different results than what we see when we look at the sky, and that all wavelengths should be analyzed to arrive at a full understanding of cosmic objects.

The Characterization of a Globular Star Cluster
Christian Snyder (Riverview Jr/Sr High School)

Project Description: