The light sharpener – 12 foot solar collection dish

Craft & Design
The light sharpener – 12 foot solar collection dish

Rob, one of my favorite makers is constructing a giant solar death ray, he writes…

Oh man. I got my hands on a satellite dish, and soon I’ll have a free source of 13,000 watts of power! Longtime readers of will probably remember that I’ve tried this before. Inspired by the island episode of Rough Science, I attempted to build a solar-concentrating parabola out of mirrors. That attempt failed, and I was only able to heat water a little bit. However, my struggles inspired Louis Giersch to produce two sunlight concentrators himself, the second of which he coined “the Solar Death Ray”. The death ray used 112 mirrors to reflect 112 patches of sunlight onto one spot. Louis did a terrific job of showcasing the abilities of his solar tool, and now I would like to get in on the action.

The Light Sharpener – 12 foot Solar Collection Dish – Link.

Solar death ray (for cooking hotdogs) – Link.
Solar Death Ray – Link.

From the pages of MAKE:
Make 684
Made on Earth. MAKE 03 – page 16. Reports from the world of backyard technology, including a shopping cart go-kart, the “Solar Death Ray,” a demolished house sculpture, a gas tank bass instrument, and some seriously big speakers. Subscribers–read this article now in your digital edition or get MAKE 03 @ the Maker store.

10 thoughts on “The light sharpener – 12 foot solar collection dish

  1. cockerham says:

    Aluminum Foil first, then 1,000 mirrors. That’s the plan.

  2. tenax8 says:

    Waalllll… I think the plan should be aluminum foil, then 1000 mirrors, then a turkey.

  3. Unomi says:

    Whoah…. that thing shouldn’t be left alone when you’re at work etc.

    Imagine a sudden wind tilts it a bit and points the focus on your neighbors car….

    Seriously, so many Watts takes so much responsibility.

    – Unomi –

  4. wbeaty says:

    Here’s one using 1″ mirror… from 1999!

    Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 12:31:50 -0700
    From: rwduncan
    To: billb
    Subject: Solar Furnace

    Hello Bill,

    My name is Robert Duncan and I live in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. While searching for solar energy-related subjects, I found your website through Infoseek. After reading your 1996 article on the Infinitely Large Solar Furnace, I became interested in your technique and constructed my own. The finished product is a 48 inch by 48 inch solar furnace with 1440 mirrors. While this is hardly infinite, I was able to
    transform an aluminum beverage can into smoke.

    The materials and method of construction differed only slightly from the information posted on your website. I used drywall screws instead of machine screws because they were cheap. I pre-adjusted all the drywall
    screws for a thirty inch focal length prior to gluing the mirrors in place. I also omitted the toothpick spacers since my final adjusments would be very small. The programming was done by placing an unfrosted lightbulb at the focal point, allowing each mirror to reflect the light onto a grid pattern drawn on a piece of plywood placed along the focal plane. Each mirror was adjusted until its reflection was aligned with it’s corresponding grid sqaure on the focal plane.

    The result was approximately 1000 watts of solar influx concentrated on an area the size of a silver dollar. Wood ignited with an audible “pop” the instant it entered the focal point. Toast burns instantly. Aluminum melts after 15 seconds. Half inch copper tubing deforms under it’s own weight after 20 seconds. Steel glows red in about the same time. The temptation for onlookers to stick thier hand in front of the furnace is strong, so I keep a cardboard box handy to demostrate what will happen to them if theytry.

    I appreciate the information and I wanted to pass along this success story. All this was accomplished with less than a $100 investment in materials. My next step is to build a heliostat and attenuator to create an apparatus similar to the ones at the National Solar Thermal Test facility in New Mexico.

    Thanks again,
    Robert Duncan

  5. adricm says:

    here is my death ray.. not quite as big.. but still really. hot..

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