The Parabolic Solar Trough

Anthony Messina | Ben Peterson | John LaFavor | Rebecca Gardner | John Goljenboom Jr

Milwaukee School of Engineering

This project was funded on:
23 March 2013
"I love this project because it affects more than just me. Renewable energy has the potential to take away millions of pollutants out of the atmosphere, and I’m proud to be a part of a team that has the potential to do that." --John LaFavor, Senior Mechanical Engineering Student

What are the goals of this project?

A solar parabolic trough collects and concentrates sunlight onto a Heat Collection Element (HCE). The goal of our project is to analyze the HCE to determine its thermodynamic properties. We are going to develop a temperature profile to help better understand the absorption and release of thermal energy from the HCE.

Why is this research important?

This research is important because the world’s resources are not sustainable and we need to be more energy conscious. This type of green technology can produce clean energy for residential use and industrial use.

How will the funds be used?

We have developed experiments to provide us with the data we need to analyze the HCE. The first experiment will be to fill the HCE with a working fluid then allow the parabolic trough to collect the sunlight and concentrate it onto the HCE, which will provide data on the net heat transfer of thermal energy from the sun to the HCE. The second experiment is to flow the working fluid through the HCE to determine how long it takes to cause the working fluid to go through a phase change. The third experiment will be a detailed temperature profile at the inlet and outlet of the HCE. This will provide data for us to possibly propose a different design for the ends of the tubes.


Budget Overview

We will need funding for a pump, flow meter, tubing, steel pipe, valve, hose clamps, PVC step down pipe, poster board, and funds to present our findings at the IECEC Conference.

Meet the Researcher


I am a senior in the B.S. of Mechanical Engineering program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. My team and I have started a project to study optimize the properties of what is referred to as a solar trough. The solar trough focuses sunlight along a metal tube full of running water. It then takes that heat to boil the water and turn that thermal energy into useful energy.

We will also create a way to artificially mimic the energy received from sunlight in a laboratory experiment. This will then hopefully be used as a learning tool here at our school in the future.

Project Backers

Anthony MessinagrandparentsKarenRayfieldGootiejmairphmom2Denny LuangrandmaJ2fhapgoodFraJohn Goljenboom JrhoshCharlie MoseleyAlpha0328zezantamDarleneHerbert M SaurowirtzmBisakha Sen
Project backers