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Build a Solar Updraft Tower

Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
solar energy, density, temperature, Greenhouse effect, Chimney/Stack effect
solar updraft tower setup with lamp

Introduction

Have you ever had a sunburn? If so, you know how powerful the Sun's heat can be! Did you know that this heat can also be turned into electrical energy? You may have heard about solar cells, but what about a solar updraft tower? This very simple structure uses the sun to heat up air, which then powers a turbine within a large tower. In this activity, you will build one of these towers yourself. Do you think you can make a propeller spin with just hot air?

Credits

Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Black construction paper (about 20 x 20 inches)
  • Smaller piece of construction paper (any color)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Piece of modeling clay
  • Wooden skewer
  • Needle
  • Thermometer
  • Lamp with incandescent light bulb or heat lamp
  • Paper
  • Optional: sunshine, and a wind protected area outside
  • Optional: timer
  • Optional: white construction paper
    solar updraft tower materials for activity

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Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
solar energy, density, temperature, Greenhouse effect, Chimney/Stack effect