The Wilson Solar Grill is currently being developed by MIT professor David Wilson with the help of MIT graduate students from differing disciplines, as of 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 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 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.
Articles in the media
- June 2012: A Solar Grill Prototype for a Greener Tomorrow - barbequelovers.com