The fall semester just started and my team and I have to come up with a senior design project. Faculty projects and industry funded projects are very slim this year and it’s looking like our best bet will be to come up with (and fund) our own design. At this time I am torn between two ideas. The first is a solar concentrator with a tracking mechanism. I am particularly interested in the parabolic dish type. Doing some research it appears that industrial scale dishes tend to power very advanced hydrogen gas sterling engines or simply heat water. It seems that black painted coiled copper pipe heat exchangers suffer from poor efficiency so we could focus on different designs for the heat exchangers to see what types are more efficient. Possibly explore coatings and different geometries and configurations. Any attempt at converting the heated working fluid to mechanical or electrical energy may run the danger of scope creep. The second idea is a boundary layer turbine (Tesla Turbine). The ideas are related in the sense that an array of solar collectors could be used to power the turbine. Once again, I don’t want the project to be too large. Most all I’ve seen on Tesla turbines is a little discouraging. I have not seen anyone make a closed system from one. Lots of youtube videos of turbines just exhausting into the atmosphere or running off compressed air or even tap water. It seems to me that if we where to build one an attempt should be make at a vacuum condenser. These turbines also appear to suffer from poor torque conversion and there is the danger of the disks warping and causing possible dangerous vibrations and catastrophic failure. So, on one hand I have a relatively safe project that seems feasible and on the other one that freaks me out the more I think about it. What would you all do? Advocate the solar project or go for the turbo machinery?