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About the Solar Energy Laboratory

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering's Solar Energy Lab (SEL) is the oldest of its kind in the world. It has been recognized nationally and internationally for accomplishments in practical applications for solar energy. UW-Madison's SEL was awarded the highest distinction given by the International Solar Energy Society, the Weeks award, for outstanding achievements in developing practical uses of solar energy.

The goal of the laboratory is to educate students through research experiences in solar and conventional energy utilization and to remain on the competitive edge of new developments. The SEL emphasizes applications of engineering fundamentals to energy problems, and leads students to advanced degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering.

Graduates with degrees in this area obtain positions in industry, government laboratories and academic settings. Many students have taken research and development jobs in large heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) firms, cryogenics, power systems, control companies, renewable and conventional energy firms, and consulting architectural and engineering firms involved in engineering applications.

The Solar Energy Lab has become affiliated with the Cryogenic Engineering Lab, the Multiphase Flow, Visualization and Analysis Lab, the Engineering Systems Optimization Lab, and the Thermal-Hydraulics Lab so that many of the projects described on this site are related to low temperature refrigeration, the fundamental behavior of 2-phase flow, and the experimental design and analysis of power conversion systems.

Laboratory History

The laboratory was founded in 1954. During its first decade, major research activities related to applications of solar energy in developing countries. The program was concerned with solar applications of water and air heating, refrigeration, air conditioning and distillation.

In the early 1970s, an extensive research program on modeling and simulation of solar processes began and soon became the essence of the program.

Since 1980, the SEL's activities have broadened to include studies of transient thermal systems that do not involve solar processes. These include HVAC system performance, energy management and control strategies, air quality research, cryogenics, power systems and industrial processes. A history of the Solar Energy Lab can be found here.

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