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Variables Affecting Solar Collectors

Experiment #25 from Renewable Energy with Vernier

Education Level
High School


Light is composed of photons or bundles of radiant energy. When photons strike matter, they are absorbed, and then one of the following happens: the energy is re-emitted, or absorbed. Re-emitted light can be reflected, scattered, or transmitted, depending on the direction of the re-emission. In the case of absorption, there are additional possibilities. For example, in photovoltaic panels, the absorbed energy is converted into electricity. In a solar water heating system, the absorbed energy is converted into thermal energy (vibration and other particle motion) in the solar collector.

The ability of a solar collector to absorb photons is affected by various factors. In this experiment, you will choose one variable and test it using the KidWind Solar Thermal Exploration Kit. You will use a temperature probe to measure the change in temperature of the water as a way of measuring the absorption of light energy by the solar collector.


  • Use a Surface Temperature Sensor to measure the change in temperature of the water in a solar collector.
  • Create a plan to test a variable that affects solar collectors.
  • Collect data and draw conclusions based on results.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #25 of Renewable Energy with Vernier. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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