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#1
08-23-2003, 02:45 PM
 MortonC Guest Join Date: Aug 2003 Posts: 10
Can Magnifying Glass Boil any Water?

Can any amount of water be heated enough to cause evaporation or possibly to boiling point by using a magnifying glass?

How big would a magnifying glass have to be in proportion to the amount of water?

If a glass container were used, would the water simply diffuse the effect of the lense or would a metal sphere do better?
#2
08-23-2003, 06:30 PM
 samclem Graphite is a great Moderator Join Date: Aug 1999 Location: Akron, Ohio Posts: 25,893

As a kid I used a cheap manifying glass(probably 5x or less) and caught a piece of paper on fire. That is 451F. Water boils at 212 F. so you COULD boil water. I'm not the one to tell you how MUCH water you could boil using a standard lens.
#3
08-23-2003, 06:54 PM
 Q.E.D. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2003 Location: Richmond, VA Posts: 22,536
Well, let's take a generously large 5" diameter magnifying glass. Give the approximate solar power density at the Earth's surface is about 1.4 kW/m2, the lens, with an area of .0126 m2 can gather about 17.7 W of power. Assuming the container can absorb 100% of the incident light, that works out to 59 minutes to boil one cubic centimeter of water, assuming zero losses, if I've done my math right.
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#4
08-23-2003, 06:58 PM
 Q.E.D. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2003 Location: Richmond, VA Posts: 22,536
Hmmm...that seems long. Redoing calculations, I get 9.44 minutes, which sounds more correct to me. Anyone care to check me?
#5
08-23-2003, 07:17 PM
 Omphaloskeptic Guest Join Date: Oct 2001 Posts: 1,263
Q.E.D.:Your second number is in the same ballpark as what I get, although you've used a more optimistic solar constant than I have. (At Earth's surface I think the values are more like 700-1000 W/m2; the value of 1400 W/m2 is for just outside Earth's atmosphere.)

Note that over a few minutes the water will probably transfer a lot of its heat to the container and the atmosphere, so I doubt if you could really boil 1 mL of water with a lens this small. But you could probably boil a droplet of water (~0.01mL) this way. You probably want to put the droplet on a dark heat-insulating surface (black garbage bag?) because water is pretty transparent.

Maybe I'll try this next time I get out my Fresnel lens.
#6
08-23-2003, 07:17 PM
 Q.E.D. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2003 Location: Richmond, VA Posts: 22,536
I left out a critical piece of information: The starting temperature I used was 20 oC. And to save anyone who wants to double-check the trouble, it takes 1 calorie to raise the temperature of water 1 oC and 1 watt = .24 calories/sec.
#7
08-23-2003, 07:55 PM
 kanicbird Guest Join Date: May 1999 Posts: 18,445
Now as the water heats it will start evaporation and that will remove that heat. You moght need a very large MG to actually get water boiling.

That said there are power plants that use mirrors to focus the sun's energy to boilwater under pressure (higher temp then 212F).

I'm sure it is possible but could take somewhat longer the the 9.x minutes
#8
08-23-2003, 08:24 PM
 Trigonal Planar Guest Join Date: Dec 2002 Location: Ontario, Canada Posts: 2,097
What's the reflective index (is that the right term?) of water? Certainly its not perfectly translucent; it must reflect some percentage of the incoming light back out.
#9
08-23-2003, 09:41 PM
 Omphaloskeptic Guest Join Date: Oct 2001 Posts: 1,263
The fraction of energy reflected when light is incident normally on an interface is [(n1 - n2)/(n1 + n2)]2. For an air-water interface n1 = 1.00 and n2 = 1.33, so about 2% of the energy is reflected.
#10
08-23-2003, 10:58 PM
 VernWinterbottom Guest Join Date: Aug 2003 Location: Massachusetts Posts: 930
Not to be a killjoy to all you calculating math types out there, but couldn't any of you just have taken a lens and some water out to the porch and try the thing out?

Just as an aside here, it's a lot easier to boil water with a 1920s-style death ray.
#11
08-23-2003, 11:24 PM
 Ring Guest Join Date: Dec 2000 Location: South Carolina USA Posts: 1,561
Quote:
 Just as an aside here, it's a lot easier to boil water with a 1920s-style death ray.
Was it Dogface who started this horror? If so is he aware of the absolute catastrophe he has visited on this board? Will it ever end? Or does all your base are belong to us?
#12
08-23-2003, 11:39 PM
 Achernar Guest Join Date: Aug 1999 Location: 23 male, Boston Posts: 5,791
Quote:
 Originally posted by Omphaloskeptic Q.E.D.:Your second number is in the same ballpark as what I get, although you've used a more optimistic solar constant than I have. (At Earth's surface I think the values are more like 700-1000 W/m2; the value of 1400 W/m2 is for just outside Earth's atmosphere.)
It seems to me that on a clear day you'd be okay using the extra-atmospheric value to a good approximation. Does anyone know of a cite one way or the other?

Of course, for something flat on the ground, you'd multiply by the sine of the sun's elevation, which could give you a value like 700-1000 for mid-latitudes. Is this what you had in mind?
#13
08-23-2003, 11:53 PM
 Q.E.D. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2003 Location: Richmond, VA Posts: 22,536
Quote:
 Originally posted by Achernar It seems to me that on a clear day you'd be okay using the extra-atmospheric value to a good approximation. Does anyone know of a cite one way or the other?
Of course I do.
Quote:
 The sun is the source of heat and energy for the earth. The solar output on the earth is called the power density. The power density of the sun's radiation on the surface of the earth is approximately 1.4 kW/m2. This value varies slightly throughout the year but by no more than 0.1 percent. One reason for this variation is the changing earth-sun distance. This distance varies by about six percent throughout the year, causing the power density to range from about 1.308 kW/m2 to 1.398 kW/m2.
From this site.

Bolding mine.
#14
08-24-2003, 02:17 PM
 spingears Guest Join Date: Jul 2003 Location: KNOXTN Posts: 4,334
Boiling Water

It is alleged that Thomas Edison asked one of his employees to find the volume of a glass vessel, more specifically an ordinary light bulb.
the assistan/employee set about measuring and calculating, and sovering several sheets of paper with the operation

Edison's approach was to simply fill the vessel with water and measure the volume in a standard graduated cylinder.

???
#15
08-24-2003, 05:46 PM
 Omphaloskeptic Guest Join Date: Oct 2001 Posts: 1,263
I don't think I believe that cite, Q.E.D. All of the quotes in the cite seem to refer to the solar constant (about 1370 W/m2), which is the value outside Earth's atmosphere; it's just the text below it that mentions the surface of the Earth. Here are some sites that talk about average absorption and reflection by atmosphere and clouds: Earth's Radiation Budget and Solar Radiation. This site mentions values of 800-1100 W/m2 at the surface, but doesn't provide any references or other info. I've seen that range mentioned before, and that's what I was using, but I don't know if that assumes a sunny day or not. I haven't found any really authoritative answers though.

The two sites above give -8% to absorption and reflection by the atmosphere and another -23% by clouds, so maybe on a very sunny day you can get about 1200 W/m2. I don't know how much power gets reflected by different kinds of clouds, so I don't know how likely "very sunny" days are.
#16
08-24-2003, 06:51 PM
 rowrrbazzle Guest Join Date: Jul 1999 Location: Chicago Posts: 8,522
You can buy a foot-square Fresnel lens from Edmund Scientific for about \$5. Not only does it boil water, it melts solder. If you focus the noon sun on the side of small black-painted can of water, you can hear the water at the focus boiling almost immediately. It does take a while to bring all the water to a boil, of course.
#17
08-24-2003, 07:06 PM
 Sunspace Charter Member Join Date: Jun 1999 Location: Near the GT eeehhhh... Posts: 27,416
Dammit, I was going to mention the Giant Fresnel Lenses!!! And how, when you buy the 4'x8' size at EfstonScience in Toronto (affiliated with Edmund Scientific), you had to keep it covered when you took them across the parking lot or it'd melt the asphalt...
#18
08-24-2003, 09:28 PM
 Omphaloskeptic Guest Join Date: Oct 2001 Posts: 1,263
I found a better reference for solar power density at the surface of the Earth. (It doesn't seem to be online, though.) From the second edition of Physics Vade Mecum (published by AIP), &sect;11.08A (Table: Intensity of Solar Radiation):
Quote:
 Solar constant (average normal intensity above atmosphere): 1367 W/m2 Peak normal intensity in U.S. southwest: ~1000 W/m2 Average annual intensity for continental U.S.: ~200 W/m2
The actual table lists average intensities for several U.S. cities. Unsurprisingly, Seattle's is lowest; El Paso has the highest year-round average (303 W/m2).

As an aside, this is a truly excellent book for finding random physical constants. If anyone knows of an online version I'd love to know about it.
#19
08-25-2003, 12:06 AM
 NinjaChick Guest Join Date: Jan 2003 Location: N/A Posts: 5,368
Quote:
 Originally posted by Sunspace Dammit, I was going to mention the Giant Fresnel Lenses!!! And how, when you buy the 4'x8' size at EfstonScience in Toronto (affiliated with Edmund Scientific), you had to keep it covered when you took them across the parking lot or it'd melt the asphalt...
Now that sounds like a good way to spend the afternoon...melting a parking lot...
#20
08-27-2003, 08:02 AM
 spingears Guest Join Date: Jul 2003 Location: KNOXTN Posts: 4,334
Edison Type Trial Results

For what it's worth, if anything:
A machined aluminum cup 1/2" OD x 29/64" ID x 1/2" high was blackened with 'Magic Marker,' filled with tap water, suspended between 1/32" sstl. wires over a mirror and a 5" magnifying glass oriented to focus the image of the sun on the bottom. Result: hot water.
Made cups from thin aluminum food wrap by coating dull side with Magic Marker, cut dime and quarter sized circles and formed cups, with the black inside, using a pencil and cap from a pen.
Nucleate boiling occured on the black surface in both cups but water mass remained just below boiling point. Regret lack of a micro thermocouple to measure temperatures.
Will have to get a Fresnel Lens!
#21
08-27-2003, 08:20 AM
 CalMeacham Member Join Date: May 2000 Location: Massachusetts Posts: 41,816
spingears has mentioned something that I was going to bring up -- you should probably blacken the container you are using, because the water itself, or a white or transparent container isn't going to absorb a lot of sunlight. KLarge areas of the salt flats in the Utah desert are perpetually moist because the white salt keeps reflecting the sunlight back.

I've no doubt that you can boil water by concentrating enough sunlight on a container. There's a huge solar mirror in France that can, I understand, melt metals at its focus. I'll bet you don't even have to blacken the container.
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#22
08-27-2003, 08:24 AM
 spogga Guest Join Date: Aug 2003 Location: Manchester, England Posts: 1,132
Never mind a 1920s style death ray, has nobody seen Capt. James T. Kirk boil water with a stardate 2471.9 phaser?
#23
08-27-2003, 09:16 AM
 Rhum Runner Guest Join Date: Oct 2001 Location: USA Posts: 1,889
Let's not forget about the solar furnaces, which are pretty much the same as a magnifying glass.

http://hep.uchicago.edu/solar/NIoptics.html

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