A Stove That Cooks With Molten Salt
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Solar cookers are, generally speaking, a recipe for failure. More than 200 designs (PDF) for solar grills, stoves, ovens and other cookers already litter the developing world landscape as rusting hardware or dusty blueprints. Hardly any have gained significant market share.
Yet retired MIT professor and mechanical engineer Dave Wilson sees an opportunity amid the failure. “People like to cook in the evening, sit under tree, enjoy themselves, and eat,” says Wilson who lived in Nigeria while teaching. Existing solar cookers require people (mostly women) to sit and cook in the tropical sun during the hottest part of the day. Wilson had an epiphany: What if they could cook at night with the sun instead of charcoal and wood? “When I came out of Nigeria I got very keen on solar cookers,” he says.
Almost 20 years have passed since Wilson started tinkering with a prototype in 1998. After several grants were rejected, Wilson’s design caught the eye of backers at the TATA Trust. The Indian charity, Wilson says, is committing about $50,000 to back two years of fielding testing of the solar cooker.