Energy is an abstract concept that is very familiar to students from personal experiences with household appliances, transportation, and their own bodies. However, the nature of energy, energy transformations, and energy conservation are poorly understood, even by most adults. The geopolitical and environmental issues associated with energy and its consumption in today’s global society are important for every citizen to appreciate in order to make informed decisions about the future. Without a deep understanding that energy is finite and that energy transformations are what give modern society its high standard of living, students today will not be prepared to make the tough personal and political decisions that await us as fossil fuel resources dwindle.
With ethanol becoming more prevalent in the media and in gas tanks, it is important for students to know from where it comes. This module uses a series of activities to show how energy and mass are converted from one form to another. It focuses on the conversion of light energy into chemical energy via photosynthesis. It then goes on to show how the chemical energy in plant sugars can be fermented to produce ethanol. Finally, the reasons for using ethanol as a fuel are discussed.
This activity allows students the opportunity to explore different methods for collecting solar energy and using that energy for heating, creating electricity and applying that energy to an industrial process. Experimenting with different types of materials will also allow them to understand how the properties of different materials can drastically affect the outcome of their experiment.
This unit takes students through several introductory lessons designed to gain a better understanding of the 'nano' scale as it relates to the creation of a (dye-sensitized) solar cell (DSSC). The introductory lessons guide students through activities covering volume, surface area and density and exploration of the relationship between these factors. The unit culminates with students building a Gratzel cell, a solar cell employing a layer of nanospheres of TiO2 as the semiconductor and blackberry juice as the light absorber in a non-Si-based solar cell. Students are able to build a small solar cell and test its efficiency.
Students in small groups conduct an investigation into the similarities and differences between solar tea and tea brewed by boiling water. Students will compare their two samples on four criteria—color, clarity, smell and taste—rate which they prefer, and graph the results of the experiment as a class.
You may have realized that the sun gives off heat. It feels so good to feel the warm sun on our skin when we're cold! The sun has an amazing amount of heat and even though we only get a small amount of that heat, it's just the right amount for us. You also may have realized how much light it provides us. Without the sun, we couldn't see. What about the moon? The moon doesn't have any light of its own. All of the light we see is really sunlight that is reflected or bounced off our moon.