Solar Lab

Solar Concentrator

The Propulsion Research Center Solar Thermal Research Facility (STRF) is dedicated to high temperature experimentation in a high vacuum environment. Equipment for measuring emissivity, reflectivity, and absorptivity is available at the STRF. The vacuum system is composed of primary pump, diffusion pump, turbo-molecular pump, and a stainless steel vacuum chamber. This system has reached vacuum pressures of 10-9 Torr in ideal conditions. It is capable of maintaining pressures of <10-6 Torr during the heating phase of an experiment.

A ceramic and tungsten sample holder is mounted within the vacuum system. It can withstand the high temperatures produced by the primary concentrator. The sample holder is attached to a stepper motor that allows it to be rotated to student emissive and reflective properties at a variety of angles. The 10ft by 10ft Primary Concentrator is composed of sixty-six individually focusable hexagonal facets.  These mirrors are used to concentrate the solar energy reflected by the heliostat to a 2 inch diameter spot within the vacuum chamber.

The Data Acquisition System is composed of C-type thermocouples, a triple port spectrometer, and an IR imaging and measurement system. These tools allow for real-time data acquisition of temperature and the near-infrared through visible spectral wavelengths. The spectrometer equipment and software package allows for accurate measurement and complete analysis of a sample or spectral properties. Similarly, the IR camera system provides real-time video images and analysis of the target’s temperature.

The facility has a fully equipped, stand-alone control room.


Solar Collector


Vacuum Chamber