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Design and Manufacture of a Solar-Electric Snow Melting Device for Making Potable Water on Mt. Rainier

[+] Author Affiliations
Whitney Hopple, John Parmigiani

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Paper No. IMECE2013-64021, pp. V06BT07A033; 9 pages
  • ASME 2013 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 6B: Energy
  • San Diego, California, USA, November 15–21, 2013
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5629-1
  • Copyright © 2013 by ASME


Every Spring and Summer, thousands of hikers attempt to summit Mt. Rainier. Many of those hikers stop at Camp Muir, a base camp at 10,000 feet, where they can use restrooms, camp overnight, or refill water bottles before continuing their climb. Camp Muir currently uses a gas system to melt snow into potable water, requiring a tank of propane to be flown by helicopter to the camp at the beginning of each season. This system is costly and not environmentally-friendly. International Mountain Guides (IMG), one group who organizes trips in small groups, wants to replace this water production system with one that incorporates green energy. This publication examines possible designs of a new snow-melting device, describes the selected design, and outlines future testing and evaluation. Several models were considered in the design process that use readily available resources and provide constant power output. During hiking season, Camp Muir is often clear and sunny but can have high winds, meaning solar and wind energy are viable options as energy sources. However, wind speeds could be fast enough at high altitudes to damage a small device, resulting in solar energy as the selected power method. Since water production could not be limited by environmental conditions like cloudy weather, the device was designed to convert and store electrical energy. The current design of the device is portable, utilizes one solar-electric cell, and increases efficiency by recirculating melted water in addition to directly heating the snow. It requires minimal interaction and maintenance by the user. Solar-PV panels are used with rechargeable batteries to provide a constant source of power any time of day. Charged batteries are connected to the heating tank. Then, users fill the tank with snow and close the lid. The battery connects to a heating device that melts contacting snow. The melted snow is then recirculated using a pump over the top of the remaining snow. A filter with larger grating is used in the tank to filter larger debris, such as sticks and small stones, while a hand pump with a finer filter is used to both clean and extract the produced water. Early prototypes of the device are currently being constructed, tested, and evaluated. The first renditions of this design will be analyzed to ensure that they meet the desired water output using the available power input from the solar panels. The final device will be completed in September of 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by ASME



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