Last edited: 9 May 2022
Matt West's Solar Inventions page
WARNING: THESE DEVICES ARE MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE THAN I HAD HOPED.
ALL LARGE SOLAR OVENS MUST BE CONSTRUCTED WITH EASY WAYS TO ESCAPE.
Matt West is located near Austin Texas.
WARNING: THE TV DISH DEVICE PRODUCES A HOT SPOT OF FOCUSED SUNLIGHT WHICH REACHES TEMPERATURES AROUND 700 DEGREES FARENHEIT. DO NOT STARE INTO CONCENTRATED SUNLIGHT.
Once every safety issue is addressed you will love your solar gadgets.
This video shows the forces of intense concentrated sunlight combined with the dangers of steam and carbon dioxide heated in a black aluminum soda can.
2014 update My biggest solar oven
This was a big all-metal freezer and a small patio door. I recommend most people use more than one window side-by-side.
June 2011: Eggs: Butter the wall of a small jar. Break an egg or two into the jar. Add seasoning to taste, or not. Use a pushpin or something to poke a tiny hole in the lid of the jar. Leave the jar in the solar oven for an hour or however long it takes to harden the yolks.
You don't need to poke a hole in the top of the jar lid to prevent the jar from building up pressure. You can leave the lids on loosely. I don't do that because I've noticed the lids have a tendency to try to seal up on thier own.
Cook brocolli, cauliflower, and other vegetables much the same way as the eggs. Add a teaspoon of water if desired. Try Olive oil and spices too.
Make fresh soup and stew in a jar.
Most any canned foods will heat up well in a solar oven. Pour it into a glass jar to avoid cooking directly in the can. In a pinch, cook in the can. Warning: If you do that, the can will explode from pressure if you do not remove the lid or poke a hole in the top before putting it in the oven.
Candle Making: It is so very easy to make candles in a solar oven. There's no way there could be a danger of fire. The sun gently warms the wax. It's wonderful.
I put a piece of charcoal in a jar. I held the jar in the light of the Parabolic dish solar concentrator TV dish. The charcoal began to catch fire inside the glass. Wow! You should've seen it. And I put a Jalepeno in a jar and tried the same thing. The Jalapeno started turning black and began smoking and had an ashy spot where the light was hitting it. That was interesting.
April 2011 Update: My large solar oven reached 250 F degrees today April 1, 2010. For this time of year that is a new record for the large solar oven. Last year it only reached such a high temp in August. I'm expecting to pass 300F degrees this year. And all because I finally admitted to myself maybe it should be all black inside.
Paint the inside of your solar oven with flat black enamel paint. Use a brush and a roller and not spray paint; you will thank me later. Let the paint cure normally. Then let it cure another day in the hot sun. By then you should not smell the paint anymore.
Searing a roast or brisket adds tremendous flavor. Recently I've started to sear/smoke longer cooking meats before putting them in my larger solar oven. This step allows you to use a tiny fire to contribute a smoke flavor to your food. With only your hands full of wood and or charcoal you can have the rich flavor you want. I cooked two pot roasts in a smoker grill with the tiny fire searing the meat for around 30 minutes. Then I moved the meat to the cooler part of the grill to wait for the fire to go out. When the temperature went down to 180 degrees I placed the meat in a baking bag and then into the large solar oven. After about 6 hours I opened the bag and tasted the meat. It was fantastic. The same procedure works wonders with brisket. A roasting pot will do much the same thing. If the meat is not tender enough just leave it in longer. You can always put it back in the next day.
My solar ovens are very good at making jerky. A sugary barbecue sauce may turn dark and taste burnt if used in uncovered or open-faced solar cooking.
MICROWAVE/TV DINNERS ARE IDEALLY SUITED FOR SOLAR OVENS
I've been trying out various frozen dinners in my solar ovens. They seem to be ideally suited for solar ovens. They come in a black tray which helps the cooking. They are thin which helps them cook quickly. They arrive with a clear cover allowing sun in and keeping moisture in the food.
SEAFOOD AND FISH
Possibly the best shrimp I've ever eaten came right out of my solar oven. I've made catfish and tilapia in the solar oven too. You can fry is in a pre-heated pan. Or you can slow cook the fish.
We Can Harness the Power of the Sun.
On this page you will see my three main solar cookers.
This handy cooker can cook nearly anything that can be cooked on a conventional stovetop or oven. You can take advantage of the power of the sun to cook with no fuel. Refrigeration, Canning, and drying food can help on cloudy days. All sorts of cooking gadgets can be clamped onto these things. Build one for yourself or I can build one for you. These cookers are only a few weeks old now in April of 2008. In the weeks to come I will explore many various experiments to practice solar cooking. I will be using more thermal cookware experiments, wherein I will cook food for a time in a container-in-a-container then pack it into an insulated space and let it continue to cook from the small amount of heat I started with.
FOLLOW THIS LINK TO SEE A KIT FOR MAKING YOUR OWN PARABOLIC DISH SOLAR COOKER: SOLAR DEATH RAY TV DISH MIRROR FILM KIT
I've made a special kit so you can make your own TV dish cooker. It is on Ebay just follow the link above. I've created an easy to use kit for covering your dish with pie-shaped segments of mirror material.
I've proven that the parabolic cooker will fry food just today. April 19, 2008. Once again thermal cookware would help.
Solar Popcorn Popper? Popcorn cannon/fountain? or can you
Start with a tall and slender metal pipe capped-off on one end, and maybe both ends and vented at the top of the pipe. Fill with some popcorn and oil. Heat it on the eliptical parabolic cooker. I would'nt be surprised if you get popcorn. Try it. I recommend copper and stainless over other metals for cooking. Why a pipe?
UPDATE: March 24 2009...It works!!! Today I made popcorn with the parabolic dish cooker cart. I used an aluminum can with a bit of vegetable oil and popcorn.
Note: The eliptical parabolic dish focuses like a large magnifying glass with a focal point intended to be off-center so as to allow the maximum amount of rays to reach the dish without shading the dish by the thing you are cooking. The best part of the sun we are trying to catch in North America is in the middle of the day as your dish will be aimed close to straight up.
Make a large solar fryer
This design could stretch to nearly any length. Combine a long parabolic trough and a c-channel shaped pan/pan made of metal preferrably copper or stainless steel. The curved shape of the trough will exponentially increase the effect of sunlight heating the long griddle. The griddle will likely get too hot. If not you can use glass covers on the griddle/pan to amplify the frying temps, while keeping a watch on your cooking.
Make A Flexible Adjustable Parabolic Trough Using Plastic Or Magnetic Sheet
An adjustable parabolic trough will help you fine tune your shapes to heat the way you wish. Start with a plastic FOR RENT sign (PVC SHEET). Take that to a sign shop and ask if they will cover it in chrome mirror sign vinyl for you. A sign supplier can provide you with various thicknesses of PVC. Hardware stores have large sheets too; for use in a bathroom. Now you have a lightweight and flexible mirror. This material is the same kind of material you see on all kinds of advertising signs. It comes in chrome, gold, chrome with a color tint, and more. They have fake gold and real gold.
The material can take quite a bit of heat. It will melt. So if your whole oven gets hot then don't use it. If you are using thermal cookware it should work. It is ideal for any situation where the reflector itself will never be too hot. When the material is on steel or wood embers have little effect. If an ember lands on the material while not backed or thinly backed with plastic, it will melt. But for many applications it is ideal and comparitively inexpensive. And it's very easy to use.
You don't need finely machined anything. To conduct experiments with it you can try bending it and realizing the results. You'll be able to focus sunlight away at various height for various reasons. This parabolic trough will produce a very powerful beam of light extending as long as you want to go with it. Start for instance by clamping or glueing the center of the mirror to something like a piece of plywood. The middle is fixed now and the sides can be bent and aimed exactly where you like, near, or far to infinity. When you have the sweet spot focal point where you want it you can fix it in position permanently.
The other day it occurred to me that I could use a sheet magnet which is flexible and usually used for magnetic signs, and make a sheet mirror that will stick to parabolically shaped sheet metal. They would be easy to remove and wash. You could stick the walls of your cooker on a metal wall to dry at night.
On the next eliptical or round parabolic dish cooker I can apply a kit of magnet mirror triangles to the dish. The dish is made of steel so the satellite company can keep their cost down. Steel is even cheaper than plastic. For us it could be fantastic. With so much steel around we have a wide array of shapes we could stick magnet mirrors too, then cook all day and remove the magnets to clean them as needed.
Magnet mirrors could be used to(see ho good i look) extend the width of your project a bit beyond the edge of the metal. I can make a kit for someone if needed. Say goodbye to aluminum foil and expensive mirrors.
Here's another experiment for someone to try: See if mirror window tint can make good enough reflections to be used for cooking somehow. Perhaps it could be applied on plastic sheets, or metal sheets, maybe white ones.
What happens if mirror tint is applied to a solar oven's window so as to try to keep light bouncing around in the box? Could mirror tint be used to make flexible mirrors?
What about using mylar, lexan, or plexiglas mirror? Cooking mirrors don't always need to withstand heat themselves.
Build your own Kramer junction power plant.
Will thermosiphoning circulate hot oil? Will it circulate it through a heat exchanger system steam turbine electricity generator? It works for solar water heaters? If so does the liquid's thermosiphoning speed increase with increased heat? How much? Is there a peak or max or ideal?
Note: Moonlight can be very useful for tuning your devices. You can work on the thing without being blinded.
19 April 2008 I've just now envisioned the ULTIMATE SOLAR COOKING COMBO CART.
WARNING: THIS DEVICE REACHES TEMPERATURES UP TO 270 DEGREES.
Envision any sturdy cart. Now envision it with a solar oven and a solar dish cooker side-by-side on top of the cart. That's the next thing I will build and post here. I want to hear from people who would like to see this thing controlled by using Radio Controlled Car parts. You only need to make two adjustments; verticle and horizontal, and only every 10-20 minutes. With a remote adjuster control you could aim it from indoors and continue with what you had been doing, without having to stop to go out and track the sun. Or, at least a switch to control a motor would be very useful to keep people from thinking of it as a chore. Automatic solar tracking is even more attractive sounding if it will properly focus a parabolic dish once per minute or whatever.
Now envision the cook and the people who are using it around the world. The cart will need lots of baskets, cabinets, and an insulated storage cabinet/steam cabinet or both. If it were me cooking for years to feed a large family, I would want all the claptrap one would find on a top-notch vendor cart and more. Items such as a tool caddy and spice rack, napkin dispenser, solar weather radio, and normal radio, and other solar electronc items, with a battery and LED lights for use after dark. Don't forget hot and cold water jugs, washbin, towels, sunblock, toothpick holder, and a rocket stove too. Now think even more empathetically and you know you need a good picnic umbrella and/or shade tent/awning, as well as a folding chair or two.
South of the equator the cookers need to be on the other side or the cart. On the equator you cannot have stacked cookers; a big part of the day they would shade each other. By being juxtaposed you wont have accidents involving the breakage of your oven and so on.
Now think bigger still. Envision a 16 ft trailer loaded with multiple solar cooking devices and a family earning a living with solar cooking. On cloudy days they switch to wood or whatever. They can soot their pots on those days. Soot is excellent for absorbing sunlight. Teach them to fish and you will feed them for a lifetime.
I want to give this kind of cookers to anyone who needs one, and you can help. If you have any parts to donate please contact me. If anyone can send me carts, please do. If you have any TV dishes you can send I will make sure they make it to a deserving person. I need lots of supplies and funding to develop and make this dream come true. Donate a good car or truck if you can. I also collect, repair, and distribute bicycles to deserving persons. If you have a dish and you want a kit for converting it yourself. I can give kit of reflective material made for your particular small dish $25 plus shipping and handling $8. Send me photos of the dish being measured. The dish in the photo is not truly round; the outer edge is eliptical. So measure carefully or you will get a round kit for an eliptical dish.
I want everyone who can to do this on their own to make solar cooking carts all over the world. I can't make enough of them for everyone. That's why I posted here. I don't want anyone slowing my ideas down by trying to patent them. Now that so many have seen it, no one can patent it. Many versions will come but these are the first of their kind. It's my gift to humanity.
Experimental Solar oven made from a discarded freezer
(Below) THIS IS AN EXPERIMENTAL DEVICE. CHILDREN MUST BE SUPERVISED AROUND THIS DEVICE. THIS DEVICE SHOULD HAVE A FLOOR WHICH FALLS OPEN AND DOORS ON THE SIDES SO NO ONE CAN BE TRAPPED INSIDE OF IT.
Further discussion on solar cooking by Matt West
My friends and I want to start The Sustainable Village Institute so we need land. We want to teach sustainable farming, water conservation, solar cooking, solar power, composting, straw bale construction, adobe construction, solar refrigeration, solar water heating and much more!!!! USA
Scale independence -- This is a term that is important to remember with Solar physics. Whether you build a small project or a large project, scale is not much of a factor. What I mean is, any large project can be reduced, or made even larger. Before you spend a bunch of cash on large scale solar experiments, look around and ask yourself, "how can I make a small test version"?
I can provide the service of making your prototypes, just contact me.
I want to heat a griddle with parabolic troughs for heating the sides and more below the griddle; wherever the sweet spot need be.
But, you want a griddle. Ok, saw both of those things down the middle. Now you a have four complex multi-parabola reflectors to put around your griddle.
The flatter the parabolic shape, the farther away the focal point. I want to use rigid wire or the wire matrix of common fence material to adjust and fix the angles.
Let's say the griddle has a piece of corrugated steel or plastic, covered in mirror leaning under the griddle. Turn it one way for that effect. Now turn it the other way for a different effect.
How about a glass griddle painted black on the bottom with high temp paint. I'm looking at heat retention. How about Making a thermal griddle using the sealed cavity of thin metal box with air, dirt/rocks, fiberglas, and a glass cover?
Another approach would be simply to use thermal draft up a pipe to trap heat under a thermal and covered griddle. Heat loss seems to be the most obvious obstacle.
I'd like to see what would happen if I took a bunch of flat mirrors and wired them to a bit of common wire fence material. They would act somewhat as a segmented parabola. Would'nt they? The matrix can be stiffened and unified from the back with a flexible sheet material. I don't know how Luon is spelled. If you can afford it you could attach a bunch of mirrors to a big sheet of Lexan and bend it. Still, individual solid glass mirrors only give us one reflection of the sun. A bent mirror instantly changes the math exponentially, to produce many reflections with only one mirror.
Low cost Solar Oven/kit
A fold-up yet long lasting cooker can be made from chrome sign vinyl and coroplast corrugated plastic. Corrugated plastic now comes in clear polycarbonate. That would make a fine top. This cooker may need to be a bit vented to keep it from melting and to keep any off-gasing moving out of the cooker. The inside would be covered in chrome mirror sign vinyl. The bottom may need to be heat resistant to protect the bottom. A sheet of aluminum covered fiberglas may make a fine bottom or maybe a raise rack, or wire basket. Combined with the most basic thermal cookware setup and you have a fine oven which could last for a couple of years or more. Maybe 9-15 bucks ea. A rack to elevate the cooking would help prevent melting the bottom. Using this oven with anything other than thermal cookware and other sealed or tightly covered cookware could expose you to some off-gasing. If there is any doubt about the off-gasing don't try it. It can still be used for your solar water heaters and so on. The best possible bottom might be a big black tile, or a stack of a few of them. If you use corrugated plastic for mirrors outside your oven the is no risk of off-gasing.