Date of Thesis



Solar research is primarily conducted in regions with consistent sunlight, severely limiting research opportunities in many areas. Unfortunately, the unreliable weather in Lewisburg, PA, can prove difficult for such testing to be conducted. As such, a solar simulator was developed for educational purposes for the Mechanical Engineering department at Bucknell University. The objective of this work was to first develop a geometric model to evaluate a one sun solar simulator. This was intended to provide a simplified model that could be used without the necessity of expensive software. This model was originally intended to be validated experimentally, but instead was done using a proven ray tracing program, TracePro. Analyses with the geometrical model and TracePro demonstrated the influence the geometrical properties had results, specifically the reflector (aperture) diameter and the rim angle. Subsequently, the two were approaches were consistent with one another for aperture diameters 0.5 m and larger, and for rim angles larger than 45°. The constructed prototype, that is currently untested, was designed from information provided by the geometric model, includes a metal halide lamp with a 9.5 mm arc diameter and parabolic reflector with an aperture diameter of 0.631 meters. The maximum angular divergence from the geometrical model was predicted to be 30 mRadians. The average angular divergence in TraceProof the system was 19.5 mRadians, compared to the sun’s divergence of 9.2 mRadians. Flux mapping in TracePro showed an intensity of 1000 W/m2 over the target plane located 40 meters from the lamp. The error between spectrum of the metal halide lamp and the solar spectrum was 10.9%, which was found by comparing their respective Plank radiation distributions. The project did not satisfy the original goal of matching the angular divergence of sunlight, although the system could still to be used for optical testing. The geometric model indicated performance in this area could be improved by increasing the diameter of the reflector, as well as decreasing the source diameter. Although ray tracing software provides more information to analyze the simulator system, the geometrical model is adequate to provide enough information to design a system.


Solar research, Solar simulator, ray tracing, angular divergence

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Nate Siegel