Last updated: 8 September 2016
The Wilson Solar Grill is a proposed design reportedly being developed by MIT professor Dr. David Wilson with the help of MIT graduate students from differing disciplines in the Fall 2012.
This grill is planned to collect thermal energy from the sun and store it to allow cooking times for up to twenty-five hours at temperatures above 230 °C (446 °F). The study is being conducted by Derek Ham, Eric Uva, and Theodora Vardouli, all part of an entrepreneurship course called “iTeams.” I-Teams, (short for “Innovation Teams”) is a unique MIT course that assembles cross-disciplinary teams of students from across MIT. The goal of i-Teams is to teach students the process of science and technology commercialization focusing on how to judge a technology’s commercial potential. Each team has access to faculty, practitioners, business mentors, and fellow students throughout their project.
“There are a lot of solar cookers out there,” says Wilson, “but surprisingly not many using latent-heat storage as an attribute to cook the food.” Wilson’s technology uses a Fresnel lens to harness the sun’s energy to melt down a container of Lithium Nitrate. The Lithium Nitrate serves as a solar battery. Due to its phase change reaction, the thermal energy is able to be stored at longer periods of time and at higher temperatures. Heat is then redistributed through convection, which allows for outdoor cooking.
The students are currently taking a market survey on this technology via Survey Monkey. You can visit and take their survey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GPNRXNJ
While the goal of creating a solar grill with the latent heat storage capacity they are projecting is fascinating, the grill is still a ways from becoming a production reality. This is probably also not a solution for subsidized solar cooking programs aimed at developing countries due to the likely high manufacturing expense. If the grill makes it to production, there may well be a substantial market in more developed countries.
- NEW: September 2016: David Wilson corresponded with Patricia McArdle in 2014 regarding developments for the proposed fresnel solar cooker with heat storage. David is now retired from MIT, and has been working on the cooker design on his own. Heat is stored via molten salts, and he discovered an early design using cast iron caused corrosion with contact to the lithium nitrate salts. He feels a copper enclosure will be best, though expensive.
- April 2013: The students at MIT, Derek Allen Ham, Eric Uva, and Theodora Vardouli, have created a video conceptualizing how a redesigned Wilson Solar Grill prototype might work, and the projected project cost. Again, nothing yet appears to exist in the real world.
- March 2013: There has been no additional information released about the Wilson Solar Grill. There is concern about the practical viability of this concept with being too complicated and expensive, even if the technology were workable. There does not appear to be any working prototypes of the cooker, and the promotional photographs have been artificially constructed. Possibly there will be project updates from the designers in the future.
- August 2013: Development and Optimization of a Thermal Storage Solar Cooker - David Gordon Wilson
Articles in the media
- June 2012: A Solar Grill Prototype for a Greener Tomorrow - barbequelovers.com
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