Solar Cooking as a Physics Lesson

DSCN1608Last summer we finally bought a solar oven after previous efforts to build one ended up with a trip to the ER (and why RocketRedNeck only has 9.99 fingers). We’ll discuss the finer points of shop safety with the kids, later, but for now we can show them the power of the sun along with a few lessons in physics.

We ended up purchasing the “All American” model of Sun Oven, which performed incredibly well in the summer heat of southern Arizona; especially so when the solar incidence exceeds 1000 \frac{W}{m^2}. However, I have been especially curious how the oven would perform in the winter.

DSCN1609So today we set up the oven to cook some of GranolaGirl’s acorn squash bread, cornbread, and some hot dogs. The results were impressive, although we should have used the darker loaf pans; next time.

Besides the yummy goodness, we benefit from learning about power, area, and thermal transfer. While the ambient temperature and heat index did not exceed 63 \textdegree{F}, the concentration of a square meter of sunlight into an insulated \frac{1}{4} square meter black and glass container causes a dramatic retention of heat. The solar incidence was just under 650 \frac{W}{m^2} at around noon and the oven was holding a steady 325 \textdegree{F}. This even when the alignment was not ideal.

DSCN1607Consider this the first data point in a long experiment that we will run with the kids throughout the next year! Not exactly sure how this will roll, but we will work up a procedure, questions and maybe some smaller experiments appropriate for both Primo’s and Secondo’s age group.

Happy Cooking!


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