Energy & Sustainability Science
Solar concentrator from old satellite dish

Solar concentrator made by tiling an old satellite dish with mirror mosaic tiles.

I have actually been looking for a cool way to re-use an old satellite dish I have on hand, and it’s hard to argue with the coolness of YouTuber Eric Jacqmain’s results, or with the simplicity of his method:

Made from an ordinary fiberglass satellite dish, it is covered in about 5800 3/8″ (~1cm) mirror tiles. When properly aligned, it can generate a spot the size of a dime with an intensity of 5000 times normal daylight. This intensity of light is more than enough to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant. It stands at 5’9″ and is 42″ across.

The decorative square mirror tiles he used are commonly available from hobby shops and tile outlets. [via Neatorama]

54 thoughts on “Solar concentrator from old satellite dish

        1. you want smaller sized reflectors since you need to approximate the parabolic shape of the dish as closely as possible. CD roms are probably too big.

          1. Well, if you’re going for the most concentration into least area (i.e. deathray) you’re absolutely right. But now I’m thinking that if I want the area of concentration to be a bit larger, like say for a stirling engine or other heat engine, it might actually be better to have a 10cm focus.

            But back to the deathray, If you can conform the CDROM’s, i.e. melting or chopping them up into smaller pieces, well, that could work. But you still have the reflectance issue. I guess it’s back to the fish sculpture idea for the bags of cdroms I have…

          2. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          3. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          4. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          5. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          6. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          7. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          8. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          9. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          10. Maybe if your distance from the focal point is big and you’re in the desert (no visibility/interference issues like fog) then you could focus a lot of heat on say a pile of rocks (which I believe store heat very nicely). If I had all those cds I would break apart some wooden skids glue them to the wooden planks, stick the planks in the ground and focus them all at a point. I would be interested to see how much heat a pile of rocks could store and I would put a plexiglass (or any transparent) enclosure over it to stop heat loss due to wind and air movement over the rocks. And I would either make some ventilation or patially evacuate the plexiglass enclosure to reduce the risk of explosion.

            —-

          11. Well, if you’re going for the most concentration into least area (i.e. deathray) you’re absolutely right. But now I’m thinking that if I want the area of concentration to be a bit larger, like say for a stirling engine or other heat engine, it might actually be better to have a 10cm focus.

            But back to the deathray, If you can conform the CDROM’s, i.e. melting or chopping them up into smaller pieces, well, that could work. But you still have the reflectance issue. I guess it’s back to the fish sculpture idea for the bags of cdroms I have…

  1. I don’t have any particular projects in mind… but shooting off the cuff here I’m thinking I’d like to power a stirling engine or an aeolipile with a solar concentrator like this. Being a metallurgist myself, I’d like to experiment with a foundry powered by something like this too for casting small volumes of molten metal… that’s what I’d like to do with it. Too bad I don’t have a satellite dish laying around…

  2. I don’t have any particular projects in mind… but shooting off the cuff here I’m thinking I’d like to power a stirling engine or an aeolipile with a solar concentrator like this. Being a metallurgist myself, I’d like to experiment with a foundry powered by something like this too for casting small volumes of molten metal… that’s what I’d like to do with it. Too bad I don’t have a satellite dish laying around…

  3. I don’t have any particular projects in mind… but shooting off the cuff here I’m thinking I’d like to power a stirling engine or an aeolipile with a solar concentrator like this. Being a metallurgist myself, I’d like to experiment with a foundry powered by something like this too for casting small volumes of molten metal… that’s what I’d like to do with it. Too bad I don’t have a satellite dish laying around…

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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