SR article

Pre-Experimental Phase

Work done on the prototype

We left for Wayanad thinking we could immediately begin with the experiments. However, the prototype had just been installed two months prior to our arrival and had never been used before. Therefore it wasn’t certain that the prototype would work the way it is supposed to. When we arrived, there turned out to be a lot of work that had to be done on the prototype in order to get it to work properly. This was thus a phase of preliminary testing that had to be done before starting the experimentation phase. This phase is a normal and crucial part of the implementation of any new process, even if it was not exactly what we had planned for our time in Wayanad. 


We spent our time in Wayanad (week 27 Nov '16 - 13 Jan '17) doing the following things:


  • Insulating the steam pipes using glass wool
    This reduces heat loss.


  • Replacing all plastic (PVC) pipes by galvanised iron (GI) pipes
    The PVC pipes had been burned by the focal point. GI pipes are heat resistant.


  • Replacing the valve on the steam generation unit
    The first valve leaked.


  • Replacing the pressure gauge on the distillation unit
    We wanted a pressure gauge that reached higher pressures.


  • Replacing the gasket of the still lid
    The first one was deformed, which caused a leak.



  • Replacing and adjusting all the C-clamps
    They were too weak and two of them broke (see photo) 
    so we replaced them by stronger ones that could resist
    higher pressures.


  • Cleaned the mirror
    It was very dirty at first so we decided to clean it in
    order to gain more reflective capacity and hence
    generate a hotter focal point.


  • Repairing the pipe between the water tap and the
    reservoir water tank
    There were two things that needed fixing: there was a leak in the pipe and the connector between the pipe and the tap was broken.


  • Installed the rotameter


  • Replaced the coil by a larger one
    The first one was too short and thus the outflow was still steam instead of condensed water.


In the end, these activities formed the largest part of our stay in Wayanad. Often, when one problem was solved, another was discovered. For example, once the installation of the rotameter was finished, the leak appeared. Also, since we were on a remote location (that is not accessible by car) and there are no big cities close by, it took a long time until replacing parts arrived or necessary equipment could be purchased. The exact line of events can be found in the ‘Process’ section.