I’ve long thought it an irony that the Third World, much of which straddles the equator, has to make do with destroying scant wood reserves or using dung to make fires, when there is plentiful heat energy in the form of the Sun.
Of course, I’m not the first thinker on this subject. In fact, there’s a story of people shipping parabolic reflectors for solar cooking, only to find the concentrated pinpoint of light and heat they created made them dangerous to leave lying around, because they’d set houses on fire!
However, a while ago I came across a different solution, one that IS practical for the Third World (and let’s face it, if it works for them, we can benefit from it as well), invented by Steven Jones and others:
- It uses a crinkled reflector, so there is no pinpoint hot spot, instead, light reflects into a diffused area, perfect to heat a pot, but not burn.
- It keeps the heat even. The key is an oven-safe clear plastic bag to surround the cooking pot. The plastic lets the heat waves in, and also keeps an insulating layer of air in place, maintaining the temperature more evenly.
- It’s inexpensive. The reflector is the same thing as used to keep car dashboards cool, and the plastic bag is a few cents. I can build one locally for under two dollars, and since my parts likely came from China, I imagine Third World countries can come by them cheaply as well (if not, crinkled aluminum foil glued to cardboard likely will do the job as safely, and is the the version they mention in their how-to guide).
It’s a real world solution that really works. while there will always be a need for fuel (cooking at night or during inclement weather, for example), a device like this gives a real option where fuel costs are prohibitive. So build one yourself, and tell others about it.
Further Notes: After checking with Professor Jones for permission to use the above photo, he replied with more information, including two YouTube Videos (Part 1 and Part 2 on the making of the cooker), another information page, and the recommendation that the car reflector is the preferred method now for reflecting over the aluminum foil. Feel free to check the pages out and then make your own!