Solar Concentration for Craft Practice

“This research indicates the technical capabilities of using a 40 cm2 Fresnel lens to heat, melt and vitrify a variety of materials and suggests future applications of this technology including the ability to digitise the process. This material processing technique offers an alternative to heat matter and is significant in geographical locations with ample sunlight, offering a cost-effective option to traditional heating methods and allows directional heating, which local craftspeople can exploit to their creative advantage.”

“A Fresnel lens was proven to be an accessible and affordable tool to heat and melt materials reaching temperatures over 1200 degrees C using
natural sunlight as the energy source. Building on the literature, this solar craft process was proven to melt sand, a variety of glass, metals and burn wood and fabric in a controlled manner.”

“The results from this research reintroduce ancient craft methods and build on the techniques discussed and developed in the works of Kayser (2018) and Jordan (2014), yet solar enamelling on metal is something not seen before, presenting a new area of practice to expand upon… In the sunniest locations on the planet where solar ovens are already used, this practice could be adopted and automated; solar processing technologies could also be integrated into solar farms to process materials.”

“Moreover, whilst this research explored solar craft in outdoor and greenhouse conditions in Scotland, it is also possible to create a safe indoor workspace designed for solar craft practices in a location with consistent, high intensity sunlight, such as Portugal, where there is an indoor solar laser lab, to increase the reliability of this craft method.”

“This study melted materials between 600 and 1200 degrees C which suggests that it may be easier to alter materials at lower melting points. Developing environmentally safe methods to recycle materials like aluminium and plastics through solar concentration may offer alternatives to a discipline which would benefit from innovative solutions that contribute to sustainable development.”

“Expanding this material research to trial using solar concentration to fire locally-sourced clays, preserving wood with ‘shou sugi ban’, a Japanese technique which charrs wood surfaces with fire, and exploring solar lampwork may hold craft potential.”

Read more (open access): Westland, Karen. “Solar Concentration for Craft Practice and Sustainable Development: Fusing Ancient and Modern Methods.” Journal of Jewellery Research 5 (2022): 18-33.

Previously: The bright future of solar powered factories.