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How Parabolic Solar Cookers Focus Light

By July 11, 2014HOW TO


For someone who has never seen a parabolic solar cooker before, it can be baffling.

Sunlight is an “invisible flame,” so it’s hard to see what’s really going on. I’ve had people ask me if the heat travels through the steel frame, or if they can use SolSource like a laser to blast their obnoxiously loud neighbors. For better or for worse, parabolic solar cookers are quite safe, and they don’t work like a laser.

SkjermbildeLaser        SkjermbildeSol

Like the Death Star, SolSource directs rays of light to the center of a curved surface. Unlike the Death Star, the light does not combine into a single beam. If there is no cookware in the SolSource pot stand, the light just passes through the center and heads back into the sky in harmless individual rays. Things can only get hot at the “focal point” where all the rays converge.

Here’s a short video I made late last year to demonstrate how SolSource focuses light for cooking. It’s actually a lot of fun to try at home if you have a SolSource or another parabolic solar cooker, since you can make lots of cool images on the walls by reflecting a light source in the dish. I included a PDF of the “target” I used in the demo in case you’d like to try it yourself.

You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about how parabolic solar cookers work over at the Solar Cooking Wiki run by Solar Cookers International. Cantina West is a great solar cooker distributor that carries some other parabolic solar cookers in addition to our own SolSource.

Written by Daniel at One Earth Designs