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Power Hardware Technology

Making a Better Solar Cooker 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-high-tech-low-tech dept.
New submitter jank1887 writes "Back in 2010, the aid organization Climate Healers gave a number of solar-powered cookstoves to rural Indian villages. The stoves were rejected by the communities, mainly because they were useless when they were wanted most: for the evening meal sometimes after the sun goes down, and for breakfast before the sun has risen. Following this, the group issued a challenge to EngineeringForChange. Details of the challenge include the need to provide 1kW of heat at about 200C for two hours in both early morning and late evening, and the users should be able to cook indoors, while sitting. A number of groups, mainly at U.S. and Indian engineering institutions, accepted the challenge, and developed potential solutions. Now, almost a year later, the ten finalist designs have been selected. The actual papers have been posted to the E4C challenge workspace. The goals of most of the designs are to keep the technology simple, although there are a few exceptions, and many include sand-, oil-, and salt-based concentrated thermal storage. Many reports include some level of discussion on the social and economic considerations, barriers to acceptance and sustainability, and how to overcome initial resistance to adoption."
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Making a Better Solar Cooker

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  • Re:My Solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by emilper (826945) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#39077413)

    yes, and they're ready to go and eat cake

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:52PM (#39077419) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how they thought the original designs would be accepted in the first place - We've long incorporated larger tanks for solar water heating to provide hot water at night. Also, even rural types like their convenience, which means being able to cook inside. BTW, for the Americans - 200C ~ 400F. Considering 80% of my cooking is at 350F, that's sufficient. Reviewing the designs, I am a touch concerned that I don't see thermostats for keeping the temp steady. Not as necessary for meat, but if you're baking bread you need fairly fine control.
  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:56PM (#39077491)

    ...and sell them at a loss. That way the villagers will attach some value to the things and actually use them.

  • Re:I'm betting.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:58PM (#39077521)

    Damn right too, McDonald's hamburgers are horrible. People living rural lifestyles like this are used to eating real meat instead of processed crap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:59PM (#39077531)

    If these villages can afford to be picky as to when they eat

    Perhaps the problem is they can't afford to be picky when they eat. Ever consider they might need to be working during daylight hours.

  • by krlynch (158571) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:59PM (#39077535) Homepage

    We've been cooking bread for at least ten thousand years before thermostatic control came along, so I can understand that not being part of the design requirements.

  • Re:I'm betting.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hobarrera (2008506) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:02PM (#39077579) Homepage

    This may sound trollish, but it's quite accurate; people in rural areas will dislike mcdonalds in general, they used to unproccessed meat just like parent said.

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:44PM (#39078111)
    Would it kill you to just state your ideas without insults and childish behavior? You might have a point, but no one can get to it through your asshole behavior.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:50PM (#39079021) Journal

    There are some real idiots on Slashdot who can't think outside the box that is their mothers basement.

    Wood burning has some nasty side effects. First off, wood isn't all that efficient for burning, meaning you need a lot of it. Neither can you turn it on/off as you want, meaning you waste a lot of energy. Consider a gas grill to a coal one. The coals needs to first burn up, then glow and finally cool down. The gas grill is hot in an instant and the moment you stop using it, you can turn of the supply of fuel.

    The second problem is that wood is not a renawable resource if you use it up to fast. Trees only grow so fast and it is VERY easy to use them up faster then they can regrow. Land is also expensive and often owned by someone. You can't just go around collecting wood from anywhere and the more people there are, the more this is true. Removing trees even if you intend to replace them also causes climate change. Don't believe this? The rain forest causes most of its own rain, trees evaporate a hell of a lot of water but also capture a lot of it again, it is a complex system that can easily turn forest to desert if upset. See the expanding Sahara as an example.

    Then there is another issue, collecting wood is a labor intensive task, often falling down to the women. Gathering it means they can't go to school, can't do anything else. It also forces them to go outside their village, in Africa especially this opens them to attack. Not every area in the world is safe to go outside. One of the reasons for putting wells inside villages is pricesly this, to protect the women and stop them to having to spent every waking hour collecting basic resources.

    The solar stove is a good idea. There is just one snag. Those making the decisions ain't the ones who would benefit from it. The mentioned problems of cooking outside sunlight hours are trivial to solve by adjusting how you eat. But the ones in charge don't want to do that, the old ways suit them just fine. They can afford to send their women out to collect wood, and if they get attacked, they are just killed to spare the family shame. Never underestimate the evilness of a village elder.

    Change will come but it will come slowly, just as it did in our own history. It isn't so long ago we cooked on wood and coal and suffered from it. Research the clean air act of Britain. You would be suprised how recent it is.

    Take it slow with this solar cooker, don't get the adults or old people involved at all, show the kids at school. Those girls will one day have to buy their own stove and if they have learned they can cook at least some percentage of their food without having to spend a fortune on fuel, some might just do it when they got the chance.

    Similar things happened in our own history, the bicycle was a huge liberator. While the proper women thought they were indecent, lots of young women took them as it allowed them to take jobs far further from home and thus increase the earning capacity of their family. If you get payed by the hour, any hour not spend travelling means more money and the further your range, the more options you have.

    These things go faster then you might think but slower then you might wish. The solution for the solar cooker is already known and used. Hot stones. Heat a stone, it retains the heat for long enough to continue cooking after the fire has gone out (sun has gone down). And people adjusted to this. Just takes time for the old to be replaced by the young.

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