P16486: Test Rig to Characterize Biochar Housing Materials

Systems Design

Table of Contents

Team Vision for System-Level Design Phase

At the beginning of this phase, our team planned:

During this phase, our team generated multiple concepts:

Functional Decomposition

P16486 Functional Decomposition

P16486 Functional Decomposition

The figure above is a flow chart of all functions and sub functions as clarified by customer and engineering requirements.


As the main goal of this project is to test Biochar as a housing material and compare it to standard housing materials, we must be able to access Biochar, run appropriate tests on the Biochar to determine its insulating and humidity controlling abilities, and lastly to analyze the data acquired from the tests.

Part of accessing Biochar requires that we make into a suitable housing material, however we choose to do so. After that happens, the material must be able to secured to the test chamber that we decide to implement. Further, after the material is secured, multiple tests have to run to characterize the materials. This is two pronged, one of which is to record the change in temperature and humidity utilizing a dry wall as well as a wet wall. Lastly, once an appropriate number of tests were run, a data storage device used in the test chamber can then be retracted and analyzed in Excel.

Potential Failure Modes

Anticipated potential failure modes:


P16486 Benchmarking

P16486 Benchmarking

The above chart is a simple illustration of other environmental test chambers compared to our concept. While the two initial designs already established lack in areas such as being self powered and data recording, our design will incorporate all areas that deem most appropriate and will be unique.

Morphological Chart and Concept Development

Pugh Chart and Concept Screening

Concept Screening

Concept Selection

From the above screening, the following concepts were selected as systems of the test rig:

Access Material: Drawers. A drawer is a more practical method to expose the test sample to ambient conditions.

Sense Data: We are going to chose sensors that provide necessary accuracy, recording capability, and that are more practical in size and weight in relation to our test rig.

Store Data: USB storage. This method because it is the most common and most availability, and least likely to have compatibility issues with users' computers.

Secure Material: Clamp. Most practical economically and easiest to use

Airflow: Fan. Lightweight, efficient, cheap and readily available.

Change Temperature: AC Compressor and Electric Coil. For the electric coil, it allows increase in temperature without changing the humidity. For the AC Compressor, it is the quickest to decrease temperature. The AC Compressor also dehumidifies.

Change Humidity: Ultrasonic humidifier. You can introduce humidity without introducing heat.

Analyze Data: Graphical Spreadsheet. It allows for quick analysis, but also contains the detail. Deep analysis using everyday comfortable using (Excel).

User Interface: LCD Controller. It is the easiest and cheapest to implement.

Power Supply: AC Power/Battery. Ac Power will allow us to do extended testing. And battery powered will allow to do remote location testing in ambient conditions.

Feasibility: Prototyping, Analysis, Simulation

Is the MSP430F6xx a feasible controller option?

Minimal Power Consumption

MSP430F6xx is sufficient

Memory Requirement

MSP430F6xx is sufficient

Price Requirement

MSP430FX5 is sufficient

I/O Ports Required

MSP430FX5 is sufficient

ADC requirement

MSP430FX5 is sufficient

Question: How will the test rig maintain self-powered stability?



Runtime will be 180 minutes (3 hours), and should accommodate tests every 5 minutes (36 times) or 10 minutes (18 times).


Designs and Flowcharts

P16486 Function and Concept FlowChart

P16486 Function and Concept FlowChart

The above flow chart lays out different inputs and outputs associated with the design. Starting with the computer, the user will input values, a power source will initiate a power supply and the temperature and humidity sensors will begin to sense and measure. The user and sensor inputs send data to the controller, while the power supply sends power. From the controller, tests are run to increase and decrease temperature and humidity as so for appropriate tests. Lastly, the controller will send the following data back to the computer to output results.

P16486 EE Flow Chart

P16486 EE Flow Chart

Plans for next phase

For the next review, we will have all of our concepts at system and subsystem levels finalized. We will also have a drawn up schematics of our full system, including subsystems to effectively communicate our overall goal and concept. On top of all of this we will have done multiple feasibility analyses, a bill of materials, and another risk assessment.

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