Renewable energy is the energy generated from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, water, tides, geothermal heat and various form of biomass. It cannot be exhausted and is constantly renewed. It is important to note that are many kinds and each has its own share of advantages and drawbacks.
• Biomass: it is the most widely used form of renewable energy and simply refers to the use of organic materials (focused on methods that don’t produce carbon dioxide) and converting them into other forms of energy that can be used and biofuels are transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel that are made from biomass materials.
• Solar: it is one of the most popular, and fastest growing, source of alternative energy. The process involves solar cells that rely on the photovoltaic effect to absorb photons and convert them in electrons. Meanwhile, solar-thermal power (another form of solar power) relies on mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area.
• Wind: it can be considered a form of solar energy because winds are caused by the uneven heating and cooling of the atmosphere by the sun. Wind flow can be captured by turbines and converted into electricity. On a smaller scale, windmills are still used today to pump water on farms.
• Hydrogen: it is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe, yet it does not occur naturally as a gas on earth. It is high in energy, yet produces little or no pollution when burned. Hydrogen fuel cells convert the potential chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity, with pure water and heat as the only by-products.
• Geothermal: this energy, as the name implies, is derived from the heat of the earth itself and geothermal power plants harness these heat sources to generate electricity. • Tidal: similar to wind power, it is considered to be a potential source of renewable energy because tides are steady and predictable.
For this laboratory, De Lorenzo has designed very basic trainers, conceived in such a way that most experiments can be performed in indoor environments. They cover a big part of the systems mentioned above, such as a kit for solar energy with practical usage of the photovoltaic cells, a kit for wind energy concerning the basics of using and understanding the functions of wind power plants, a kit for thermal energy providing a basic understanding of solar thermal energy conversion, a kit for bio-fuel energy in which an entire process of the production of organic fuels can be displayed and a kit for hydrogen energy to study the principles and the operation of an electrolyser and Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Beside the previous kits, it is also available, for the study of photovoltaic solar energy, a very practical trainer composed of a kit of sub-modules with a universal development board. The latter unit can be exploited, by adding more sub-modules, to cover other disciplines such as analogue and digital electronics. All the trainers are recommended for high schools.