Augustin Mouchot’s solar device made its debut at Expo 1878 Paris. At a time when France was seeking to rebuild itself following the Franco-Prussian war, the inventor of the first parabolic solar collector was seen as a genius.
A brilliant French mathematician who possessed a futuristic mentality that led him to foresee a time when the world would no longer be able to depend on non-renewable resources, Mouchot first built a solar-powered steam engine using a concave mirror to reflect the sun’s rays onto a glass-covered boiler. To his amazement, it worked perfectly and motivated him to experiment further in Northern Africa.
Algeria was chosen as an ideal location for testing, which led to the invention of many solar energy devices including a solar cooker and a small solar engine for pumping water.
Inspired by the successful results, Mouchot then created the world’s largest parabolic solar collector, which was revealed at the World Expo in Paris in 1878. It was made using specially shaped mirrors to focus the suns’ rays onto a black copper container filled with water, thus turning it into steam. This machine was then attached to a heat-powered refrigeration device and used to produce ice blocks. With this impressive creation, using concentrated solar power for the first time, Mouchot won the gold medal.
Despite the ingenuity of Mouchot’s solar machine and his revolutionary book on Solar Heat and its Industrial Uses, the idea of solar energy as a replacement for non-renewable resources was swiftly abandoned, following the discovery of more coal in France and the discovery of oil in the United States.
Today, growing environmental challenges and the urgent need for unexploited sources of energy has forced researchers to review Augustin Mouchot’s inventions from over a century ago. The refined process - nowadays known as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) - is based on the same principle as Mouchot’s parabolic technique, combined with thermal energy storage, to create energy that is highly beneficial in terms of reliability, independence and security.
With its “Future Energy” theme, Specialised Expo 2017 Astana is the place to discover the novelties in sustainable and renewable energy and see how far we have come since the Expo 1878 Paris.
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.