Month: February 2017

Ray tracing

Ray tracing

Ray tracing

02/28/17

“How can we represent light rays interacting with lenses and mirrors?”
Even through the field of optics is a deep one, it is also quite simple. At its fundamental core, it is about the properties and interaction of light. This includes the subset of mirrors and lenses. So wouldn’t it be logical that we should develop a system to represent the interaction with lenses and mirrors? To start off, let’s construct the mirrors, lenses, and objects that we would like to work with. Next, label the center and focal point of the mirrors and lenses. Afterward, draw lines emanating from the object, and have it realistically interact with the optical instruments. Then draw the resulting image where all of the rays converge onto one another. This process is known as ray tracing, and is one of the most important tools used by researchers and students in optics.

Active solar water heater

Active solar water heater

Active solar water heater

02/27/17

“How can we create another iteration of an active solar water heater?”
Batch-collector solar water heaters are one way of heating water using solar power, but as engineers, we are never satisfied with just one way of doing things! So, how can we innovate on this design to create a new system? Well, let’s think about it. We know that using a cylinder to store heated water is a well thought out design choice. But how about we were to modify how it is heated up? Instead of just having a passive system where the cylinder is warmed by the sun, let’s instead extract it using a solar powered pump, push it through a solar panel, and let it come out back into an isolated part of the cylinder as heated water, which has a pump to escort it to the user’s house. These pumps will come equipped with two ball valves to stop the pumps in case the solar panel is no longer in use.

Diffusion couples

Diffusion couples

Diffusion couples

02/26/17

“Why does diffusion happen between two solid materials?”
Diffusion is a most fascinating chemical and physical phenomenon, allowing a dense collection of an element to expand and suffuse itself into another. However, What is required for such an effect to occur between two solid items? Well, after many years of research, Materials Scientists and Engineers have discovered a little thing called diffusion couples. Diffusion couples are two items with point defects that are in close contact. When the temperature is elevated, then the atoms of these materials are more likely to moves around, and can “jump” into the holes of its neighboring material. As time approaches infinity, these two materials will become homogeneous with one another, therefore stopping the diffusion process.

How images form in the eye

How images form in the eye

How images form in the eye

02/25/17

“How exactly do we see things with our eyes?”
Everything that we perceive in this world is formed through our eyes. However, have you ever wondered how images can physically form in these biological objects? Well, let’s analyze this question scientifically to find out. If one were to take an eyeball and cut it in half through the midpoint of the pupil, they will find a lens just behind the cornea. If you were to then shine parallel light beams through this lens, then you would find that all of the light would focus on to the backside of the eye. The back of the eye will then transmit information to the brain, which will invert the image “in the mind’s eye” enabling us to see!

Shear Stress

Shear Stress

Shear Stress

02/24/17

“What happens when stress is applied parallel to the surface area of a material?”
Any force acting upon a three-dimensional object will produce an internal stress. However, how do engineers classify the types of stress that are parallel to the material’s surface area? Well, after many years of research, this phenomenon has been classified as a shear stress. A shear stress will produce a shear strain in the object proportional to the object’s modulus of rigidity, which can be symbolically represented with the equation (Tau = G*(Gamma), with (Tau) being the shear stress (Gamma) being the shear deformation and g being the modulus of rigidity. The higher a material’s shear strength is, the more it will be able to resist shear strength.

Microscope optics

Microscope optics

Microscope optics

02/23/17

“How exactly do microscopes work?”
Microscopes are one of the most important inventions that humanity has ever created. With these devices, we can view the microscopic world in unparalleled detail, enabling accurate observations for a myriad of scientific fields. However, have you ever wondered how they worked in the first place? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to think about it. Before we begin to work on this problem, let’s see if a similar problem has been solved before. If you research hard enough, then you will probably realize that our fundamental problem, taking a small image and magnifying it to a larger one, has been solved by refracting telescopes already. Believe it or not, optical microscopes use the exact same setup as these telescopes! This shows how discoveries in one field of science can be applied to a completely different one as well, and through intercommunication can both field benefit.

Refracting telescope

Refracting telescope

Refracting telescope

02/22/17

“How do old-school telescopes work?”
Telescopes are one of the most amazing machines that humanity has constructed. Not only have they become a symbol for scientific endeavor but a cultural landmark as well. However, have you ever wonder how they worked (specifically the old-school ones)? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to figure out this scientific device. If we were to uncover the case of these machines, we would find two convex lenses. Now, if we were to trace a ray diagram through the lenses, we would find something very interesting. First, the incoming light from the object would converge onto a real image on the opposite side of the first lens. The light from this image would then be received by the second lens, which shifts the light’s direction in such a way that their paths would converge on the receiving side of the lens, forming a magnified virtual image, therefore creating an enlarged image that the human eye can see. This form of a telescope is called a refracting telescope, and has been used since the days of Galileo!