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solar cooker science project problems

by Zoe
(Mass. )

I am making a solar oven for a science project, but we are not allowed to use plastic, glass, or plexiglass in our ovens. Are there any designs that do not require the use of a transparent material?


Greetings Zoe,

Thank you for your great question.
I am going to allow some of our site regulars answer your question, and then later I will add my thoughts when I get a quick moment.


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Apr 20, 2012
Zoe's Project
by: Light Dancing

The restrictions they have placed on you are rather puzzling to me. I don't see the reasoning to deny you plexiglass. Realistically this is forcing you to abandon any good plans for making a Solar Oven. You can, of course, make a Parabolic Solar Cooker without glass or plastic. If you go to YouTube and type in the phrase "PARABOLIC COOKERS" you will find all kinds of ideas for this. See if you can get your hands on an extremely thick chunk of Styrofoam, using some basic Geometry to carve the styrofoam into a parabolic curve that can accommodate the foil. Just be sure to calculate the "Focal Point" (the place where all that sunlight will be focused and please be very careful to protect your eyes because Reflective Parabolic surfaces are VERY POWERFUL, and you don't want any accidents to anyone's eyes or skin. An easier way might be to get an old satellite dish and glue foil or Mylar onto it. YouTube has lots of great ideas for this, but remember to plug in the term PARABOLIC for best results. The danger with using Satellite Dishes is that the focal point is outside the dish my many inches. The risk of burning eyes, clothing, or skin, is very high and can cause irreparable damage. Extremely dangerous. If I were a science teacher I would much rather encourage a child use a piece of plexiglass or a an old framed window pane to make a really light weight, safe, cheep, and very effective Solar Oven. But, who knows what they were really thinking when they made up such rules?

Apr 20, 2012
Your Search Can Start Here
by: Brad

This site has the basic styles and breakdowns of various solar cookers. I'm sure you can find one that fits your project's guidelines.

solar cooker plans

I can only wonder why the project cannot include glass in the design. It's hard to make an oven when there isn't a material that can provide heat retention.

Apr 20, 2012
by: Bruce

Hi Zoe,

I would build either a parabolic dish, or a parabolic trough solar cooker. You could use reflective metal of some sort to concentrate sunlight with either design.

Does the cooker have to be able to do anything specific? (Like boil water, cook a hotdog, bake a cookie, etc?)

I saw some students at a local school use old CDs as reflectors on a parabolic trough, and they seemed to work well. Of course, they are made of plastic, so I'm not sure you could use them.

Anyway, good luck with your design. Please let us know what you build, and how well it worked.


Apr 20, 2012
by: Dana Kx

Wow, that sounds like an interesting challenge, as a glass cover allows you to keep the heat in the cooker that you've captured, without losing as much.

You can definitely use aluminum foil or sheets of reflective tape to make angled reflector panels, like the Hot Pot solar cooker shown on this site.

Also, although many people don't recommend using cast iron pots because they take longer to heat up, I like to use them, because (1) they are black and absorb heat/light well and (2) they really do a great job of holding the heat in. I would think if you used one of those, it would be sort of self-insulating, because of it's slowness to lose the collected heat.

I'd suggest good reflector panels all the way around, angling your cooker well to maximize the direct sunlight (you want the shadow under your cooker to be as small as possible, so keep angling your cooker, not only in the direction of the sun, but also an up/down angle. And hopefully, you can put the cooker in a place where there is not much wind, as your biggest challenge will be not losing heat, since you can't cover the pot with glass/plastic, etc.

Good luck, and I'm sure you will learn a lot, whatever success you have or don't. I experimented around for a long time, before we found a design that works, and the learning/experimenting process was a lot of fun.

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