Nathanael Nelson, Brigham Young University
To reverse the catastrophic effects that are impending due to climate change requires a drastic change in the way that people consume energy and view its production. Enough energy reaches the earth from the sun to provide 6000 times the current world’s consumption. The challenge is to construct solar power frameworks in such a way that people adopt and use it. The goal of this research is to create a reduced size solar array attachment that can easily and affordably turn any surface, including benches, bus stops, and trash cans, into a mobile device charging station and collect data concerning its use. A previous study by the BYU Open Access Solar group created a solar table capable of charging a mobile phone. The current Solar table would reach a financial break-even point in a minimum of 23 years. At that price only altruistic organizations and individuals would invest in such a product. Because the current solar table produces more power than needed to charge a single phone, the main objective of this research is to determine what size and arrangement of solar array and battery is necessary for a mobile device charging station, create an effective data logging and charging mechanism that can withstand the elements, and place prototypes in public places to determine how much potential power the Solar Patches can produce and how much energy is consumed as people charge their devices. This data will be used to determine if it is possible to further reduce the size of the array or the battery, and therefore minimize the cost and maximize the usability of the Solar Patch concept. In the coming months we will explore a variety of options for materials and design features. As we converge on the best ideas we will refine the design into a prototype which we will test by placing it around BYU campus and monitor the public use of the charging stations. A low-cost Solar Patch design will be at the forefront of bringing power production to where people use power. This will initiate a fundamental and creative change in the way people think about how their power is produced. Solar Patches will help people to feel that they are a part of this energy revolution. It is expected that this research will be published in Sustainability, be presented at the IEEE SusTech conference.