Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Resource facts

  • Independent of the number of students
  • Up to 3 lecture units
  • Internet connection necessary
  • English, German

Resource Description

The Solex – a Solar-Powered Heron’s Ball works as a pump(Resource ID: 183)

For most people, technology – and new technology in particular – is something magical. Technicians in the Hellenistic world like Heron of Alexandria, who built the first steam engine, thrived on it. His temple door opener using sacrificial fire was even more functional. It was meant to show the faithful that the deity had accepted the offering, since those who know nothing must believe everything. This module therefore aims to contribute to the demystification of sustainable technology and brain-training of future frontier scientists. It seeks to promote phenomenological empathy for thermodynamic systems based on solar energy.

The Solex water pump is a refillable implosive Heron’s ball that makes the technical basis of thermodynamic machines visible in the form of a solar thermal steam pump. Its basis is:


Using the principle of Heron’s ball, the pump forces water upwards, where it is collected. This is the lift; the water in the upper basin is potential energy. When the water flows downwards, it is kinetic energy. In this way, the principle of the basic equation for heat engines (above) and the equivalence between heat and work becomes visible.

This Solex pump was developed as part of the Global Villages project (beginning with the Aldeas Global Populares in Peru, then in the Global Village of Kirchbach in Steiermark, Austria then in Thailand), and most recently as part of the Sustainicum project in Vienna. Global Villages, which are based on the concept of the European Broadband Initiative, promote regional development through education. However, they must be able to manifest tangible results that also involve the people living in the villages. Therefore, apart from the required valves, the Solex pump cannot have any moving parts, such as electric motors, photovoltaic panels, pistons, or gaskets; nor can it require lubricant, etc., as these are all things that the “village blacksmith” cannot readily maintain or repair. In addition, the chain of value creation must remain within the region.

Therefore, the logic of the Peruvian program to rebuild the agricultural technology of the Incas for the mining population in the Andes, which - unlike European mountain farmers - cannot be subsidized, was employed in order to revive the cultural heritage of Europe dating from the Alexandrian Hellenistic age. See the document “Origins of the Technology” (“Ursprung der Technik”) as an illustration of this.

Often, people are forced to implement acquired knowledge as soon as possible: in extreme cases, they try out innovative, sustainable technologies on their own, or have no electricity or even water for irrigation. In such instances, accessible, web-based feasibility is enormously important. See "Wikilampao Nanosolex".

Contact details for borrowing physical devices
University for natural resources and life sciences (BOKU),
Institute for risk and security sciences;
Borkowskigasse4 Baracke 3 and 4,
1190 Vienna
Learning Outcomes
- Training to be a frontier researcher and independent thinker
- Practical demonstration of solar energy heat engines
Relevance for Sustainability
A biogenic turnaround in the minds of frontier scientists necessitates a paradigm shift from orthorepetitive science to heteroinnovative science in order to enable the development of sustainable solutions ab ovo (starting with the paradigm), instead of simply putting conventional solutions through a “greenwash”.

The topic of “intercultural creativity” and the development across three continents that this requires that sustainable heat machines can be repaired by village blacksmiths – and thus work without computer chips and other such components that make the most complex systems into disposable products, since nobody can repair them. Disposable products are not sustainable!
Related Teaching Resources
No specific previous knowledge / related resources required
Sustainability criteria
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Holistic thinking
  • Long-term thinking
  • Application oriented
  • Related to acquiring knowledge
  • Problem-solving oriented
Preparation Efforts
Sources and Links

Thai Solex Pump:

Austrian Nano-Solex Pumpe with gauges and test run with electricity:

Development platform with Thailand and other countries:

European Commission Report on Frontier Research:

Summary of all didactic goals on Wikilampao (the “making-of” Wiki):

Nanosolex Proof of Concept Video (in test run, still using electricity for energy balance:

Funded by
Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the framework of the call "Projekt MINT-Massenfächer" (2011/12);
Global Village (aldea global popular) Nongay, Lam Pao Thailand;
Ramayagala Technological University Isaan Campus Thailand (material and services)

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Uwe-Christian Plachetka


Uwe-Christian Plachetka
This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
Institute of Safety and Risk Sciences (BOKU Wien)


Creative Commons

Pillars of Sustainability

  • environment

Teaching Tools & Methods

  • Measurement device
  • formteaching_experiment