Sun-Cooked Cakes And Pizzas? These Solar Cookers Can Get It Done Without Causing Any Pollution
Can we use the power of the sun instead of firewood and LPG, the most common cooking fuel used in India? Dr. Manoj Kumar Soni, an Associate Professor at BITS Pilani says it can be done.
While solar cookers have been around for a while it has not gained the acceptance it deserves.
Solar-cooked food at Oasis 2022
At the recently concluded Oasis 2022, the annual cultural festival of BITS Pilani, Prof. Soni, and his team demonstrated how the power of the sun can be harnessed to prepare food.
During the three-day event between November 20-22, Prof Soni and his team prepared a range of food items including cakes, pizzas, and even sabudana khichadi to show that it is possible to cook with solar.
"I discussed the idea with my students of renewable energy and we decided to have our stall during the annual event. The students collected the raw materials and me and my wife helped them prepare the food items like chocolate, vanilla, and orange cakes, pizzas and more. We sold them and donated the profit to Nirmaan, an NGO led by BITS Pilani students," Dr Soni told Indiatimes.
How does solar cooker work?
According to him, the solar cooker works similarly to the principle of the magnifying glass which can concentrate light from the sun into one spot.
"For the solar cooker, instead of the magnifying glass, there is a parabolic shape which focuses the solar radiation to one point where the raw ingredients are also kept. Depending on the intensity of the solar radiation you can cake a cake or pizza in 15-20 minutes," Dr. Soni explained.
Advantages of solar cooker
One of the biggest advantages, he said that solar cookers have is that they are cheap and don't require any conventional fuel, which makes them ideal for homes and small businesses.
"The purpose here was to spread awareness about solar energy, and also show that clean energy can be used as a livelihood for someone who wants to start a small baking or cooking business," he said.
Other than the cookers Dr. Soni's team is also working on developing solar dryers which can be of great help to small farmers, who often struggle with falling prices of their fresh harvest as they don't have the means to turn them into value-added products and extend their shelf-life.
"Something like the apple that is harvested has to be sold imminently as the humidity makes it impossible to store them for long. Instead, they can use dryers to dry the harvest and increase the shelf-life. The same thing can be done with potatoes - instead of selling them raw, the solar cooker can be used to fry them and make potato chips, which is value addition," he said.
Over the years, Dr. Soni and his team in BITS Pilani have trained hundreds of women from neighbouring villages in the use of these solar cookers.
"Potential users need proper training in setting these up and handling them. Since it is a reflective material, keeping it clean is also very important. If these basics are imparted, people can use these solar cookers effectively," he said.
Disadvantages of solar cooker
While these solar cookers are cheap and use clean energy, Dr. Soni said that it has a set of disadvantages that have resulted in them not becoming widely used.
"One of the biggest disadvantages solar cookers have is that you can only use them during the day as they can't store the energy. Research on storing energy is going on around the world, but more work needs to be done. Another disadvantage is that people will have to stand in the sun, which many don't want to do. it also takes a lot more space, which can be an issue in the cities, and not in villages," he said.
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