2005 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Brendan Lum: Does Angle of Incident Affect Solar Cell Efficiency?

Fossil fuels are used to produce most of our energy needs. They fuel our cars, heat our homes and provide electricity for our everyday needs. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of fossil fuels and it is being depleted day by day. One promising alternative technology is the production of electricity using solar cells. Solar cells convert the suns’ energy into electrical energy.

This project was designed to learn what angle of incident light striking solar cells will produce the most electricity. The expected results are that solar cells facing the light source (sun) directly at a 90° angle would be the most efficient and produce the most electricity. After performing the experiment with two different light sources, the results indicate that solar cells are most efficient when sunlight is applied at a 90° angle.

Lindsay McHugh: Insulation Valve: Straw vs. Modern Insulation Techniques

Although I have never lived in a home insulated with straw, I have read that straw has been a great form of insulation for homes in the past. The purpose of my project is to compare straw insulation to conventional insulation types that are commonly used today, which are fiberglass and solid foam sheets. My hypothesis is that straw will provide the best insulation of the types I am testing for heat retention and sound proofing. I build four identical stud frame structures, and insulated one with straw, one with fiberglass, one with solid foam and one with no insulation as a control.

I tested for sound by measuring the number of decibels that pass through the wall from a speaker inside. Heat retention was tested by measuring the interior temperature when the structure was moved outside. In the two test I conducted, straw provided the best insulation of the types of materials I tested.

Danielle Hollywood: Wind City

The purpose of my research and experimentation was to determine if San Carlos has enough wind speed to support wind powered generators. To help answer my question I did research, experimenting, and built my own anemometer. My research was compiled by using weather almanacs, internet sources, and a trip to the National Weather Station located at the San Francisco Airport.

In my research I learned that December and January have the lowest average wind speeds of 7.7 mph. This means the data I collected was at the lowest average month that wind speeds will be. My data collection was done by going to six locations in San Carlos and measuring wind speeds by using a velometer (that reads in feet per minute) and converting the speeds into miles per hour. While experimenting I found spots that would be successful in providing enough wind and I found spots that would not necessarily be a great location for providing wind.

Vasco Morais: The Effect of Temperature on PEM Hydrogen Fuel Cell Efficiency

My hypothesis was that if the temperature of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell is increased in the range of 9° C – 40° C, then electrical output in voltage ( as a measure of efficiency) will increase as well ( a direct relationship). A PEM separates the protons and electrons in hydrogen atoms, freeing the electrons to travel via a circuit generating electricity for electromagnetic applications, emitting no waster of by-products other than heat and water vapor.

For the experiment, the fuel cell was stored in the freezer until its temperature dropped to 9° C to room temperature (23° C). I them used a blow dryer to increase the temperature to 40° C and recorded the voltage for each degree as the temperature decreased to room temperature.

My hypothesis was refuted. My results displayed an indirect linear relationship. Therefore, I found the 9° C to be the optimum temperature for maximum efficiency. Electrical applications using fuel cells wouldn’t be running at optimal efficiency at room temperature.