Living with the sun ☀

Boudewijn Buitenhek

Keywords: Sun, Sustainability, Energy transition, +31619995649

In the Netherlands, an increasing number of people are installing solar photovoltaic panels on their rooftops. However, this way of living is not affordable and accessible to everyone. In this project, I explore how I can participate in living with more sustainable energy sources, while living in a rented apartment.

As part of my research process, I lived without gas and electricity for a week and observed the consequences this had on my life. I allowed myself to use any power that I was able to generate myself. Some aspects of life were easier than expected, and some were harder. One of the things that turned out to be more difficult was making my daily morning coffee. Thus, I aimed to create a device that would enable me to make my daily morning coffee by harvesting the necessary power from its environment, my apartment, and the sun that shines through the window. Utilizing solar panels for this application was complex, expensive and inefficient since I would have to harvest solar energy, store it in a battery and then use a resistive heating element to heat up the water. I started looking in the past for alternatives and discovered solar heat accumulators.

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Living without power
Lawrence B. Romaine Trade Catalog Collection, Mss 107, Department of Special Collections, Davidson library, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1892.
Modern rooftop solar water heater

To make this solar coffee machine work I harnessed the so-called "green house effect" the theory behind the first successful solar oven invented back in 1767. In my system, I employed glass tubes originally developed for modern rooftop solar water heating systems. In this system, solar heat gets trapped in the core of the cylinder, reaching temperatures above 200 degree Celsius.

With these machines, I want to show that there are other means of harvesting the sun's energy besides complex solar PV systems. I did not try to make a better alternative to a coffee machine, I made this device to help me learn about the nuances of living with the sun in my life, in my apartment.

In order to test the impact that the solar coffee machine had on my life, I roasted beans every day for a month. This resulted in a diary consisting of jars of roasted coffee that combines the weather, my life, and the nuances of living with a solar-powered coffee machine.

Roasted coffee bean diary
Early experiment boiling water on my balcony
First successful solar roast
Breaking a tube in the learning process
Prototyping final design   

KABK Graduation show 2022

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