Cooking with a solar grill is probably the greenest method of preparing your food. It is also one of the most easily accessible forms of solar power.
A solar grill or oven is a device that harnesses sunlight to create heat energy. It doesn’t use any fuel, and it doesn’t cost a thing to operate it. It can help slow down the deforestation and desertification caused by harvesting natural resources which are used in conventional fuel production.
In theory, no more trees would be cut to be used for making charcoal, if everyone switched to using solar ovens. And, while the use of a solar oven is not always feasible, new concepts can open up many doors and new possibilities.
Extended Cooking Times Storing Latent Heat
Wilson’s technology harnesses the power of our brightest star and stores latent heat using a Fresnel lens to harness the sun’s energy to melt down a container of Lithium Nitrate. The Lithium Nitrate acts as a battery storing thermal energy for 25 hours at a time. The heat is then released as convection for outdoor cooking.
Some solar ovens convert the light they gather into heat by using darker colored materials. This is based on the fact that the color black absorbs more light than any other color, and turns it into heat. The more efficient the grill, the faster and longer the cooking time will be.
By trapping heat inside, the grill isolates the air within the cooking area, separating it out from the cooler outside air. This is accomplished through the Fresnel lens allowing light to enter, but once the light has turned into heat, the barrier traps the heat inside the grill.
The grill could both alleviate the well-known environmental impact of traditional charcoal grilling, and also offer a cleaner, greener and more socially sustainable cooking option in the developing world:
The design is to be deployed in developing countries as an alternative source for cooking. Wilson originally came up for the idea during his time spent in Nigeria. While there he noticed a large set of problems linked to practice of cooking with firewood.
Of course this design is unlikely to excite the purists who are addicted to the taste of hickory. But then with the American design expected to feature a hybrid solar/propane heating system, and with wood chips for propane grilling commonly available, there should be ways to get a little smoke in your food without the need to burn up the planet.
A group of MIT students are working with the technology to develop a prototype solar grill. Derek Ham, Eric Uva, and Theodora Vardouli are conducting a study through their multi-disciplinary course "iTeams," short for "Innovation Teams", to determine the interest in such a concept and then hopefully launch a business to manufacture and distribute the grills.
If all goes well, in a couple years we just be giving solar grills as presents on Father’s Day and enjoying sun-kissed instead of char-broiled even after the sun goes down.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.