Solar Stoves and Ovens

August 17, 2013
Many solar cookers use reflectors to direct sunlight into the heating chamber.

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Many solar cookers make use of reflectors to direct sunshine into the heating chamber.

In some parts of the world, people invest more money on fuel to prepare food than they invest on food itself (see References 1). Solar stoves and ovens can put an end to that practice, because they need no fuel to run, using passive solar energy to heat food and water. You can utilize solar cookers, too, and even make them yourself in your home.

Function

Solar cookers should’ve the ability to turn the sun’s energy into heat and then trap and maintain that heat to create temperatures high enough to prepare food. The easiest means to do this is to use a black or dark-colored container, which warms up when exposed to sunshine. Surround the container with a transparent box or envelope, which allows light to enter however stops heat from leaving, and you’ve a basic solar oven. Low-cost solar ovens can reach 250 F, while models that are more costly could warm up to 350 F (see References 1).

Types

Countless solar oven and stove designs exist, but they all fall under a few standard classifications. Box cookers are the best-known type of solar oven, consisting of a box with a transparent cover and a flap covered in reflective material that directs sunshine into the box. Panel cookers have numerous reflectors, directing light onto a heat chamber enclosed in clear plastic or glass. Parabolic cookers have a round or satellite-shaped reflector, with a heat chamber mounted above the reflector’s surface so individuals can direct light onto it from several directions. (See References 2)

Applications

The main application for solar cookers is in undeveloped and rural areas with little access to fuel and electrical power. For example, the UNITED STATE Division of State reports that solar ovens could stop deforestation in Uganda by providing villagers an option to cutting down trees for fuel (see References 4). Solar ovens serve for disinfecting medical instruments, assisting doctors maintain hygienic operations even in remote field workplaces (see References 5).

Research

Researchers and nongovernmental organizations are hard at work establishing solar cookers that can securely heat food and water without becoming dangerous or awkward to individuals who should use them. Although solar stovetops are unusual, one research team at the University of Arizona developed a solar collector that sits outside a home, gathering energy and converting it to heat a flat cookplate (see References 6). This kind of technological advance can make it possible for bistros and larger facilities to prepare for groups of individuals making use of only the power of the sun.