What materials can be used to make a solar cooker?

Question: What materials can be used to make a solar cooker?

Answer: There are a couple key components to a solar cooker, or solar oven, including a reflective surface, a heat absorbing material, and a thermal isolating setup. The reflective surface is used to increase the intensity of light on the cooker and can be made of a mirror or reflective metal like aluminum foil. You can put the aluminum foil on cardboard so it is rigid, light weight, easier to work with. The heat absorbing material can be the pot or pan you cook in or should be in good thermal contact with the pot you use. The way to get the most heat for your oven from the sunlight is to absorb as much of the visible light as possible to convert it to thermal energy or heat. Objects that are black, like cast iron or black cloth/paper, are the best at this while reflective or light colored objects, like polished stainless steel or white cloth/paper, are the worst. Another important component of heating is the way the material transfers its heat to other materials (like the food you are cooking) which is called conducting heat. The better a pot conducts heat the better it will be at heating your food using the available heat in the solar oven. The final component is limiting airflow through the cooker so the warm air is not carried away as fast. This can be achieved by covering it, for example with a plastic, or by building a small wall, or digging a ditch, around the oven so only the upper portion is exposed. In simple designs the reflective surface doubles as a wind or breeze barrier keeping the surrounding moving air isolated from the cooker on all sides while remaining exposed to the sun from above. Solar ovens or solar cookers can be made in many different styles to optimize performance, but even the simplest setup will achieve significantly elevated temperatures on a sunny day.

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