By Hannah Fry
5:53 PM PST, November 20, 2013
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $10,000 to UC Irvine for its development of a solar stove that allows people to cook without carbon emissions.
The grant to the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UCI is one of more than 80 awards the foundation announced Wednesday, according to a news release. The awards are being given to institutions that foster forward-thinking solutions to persistent global issues.
The stored-energy solar stove, which permits carbon-free cooking indoors and at night, was designed by a group of senior mechanical engineering students at UCI.
The stove reduces deforestation, labor time and safety concerns for women who leave their villages to gather firewood, but also pollutes indoor air far less than the traditional cooking methods currently used in developing nations, the release stated.
"The students developed a working model that uses a solar collector to concentrate sunlight on an energy storage device, which consists of an insulated box filled with potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate," the release stated.
In three hours of sunlight, the stove stores enough energy to provide a stable heat source indoors or after sunset with a temperature high enough to cook and bake foods like bread and rice.
The money will help students as they continue to improve the design of the project, which still has a few kinks to be worked out, according to the release.
"We cooked up two batches of bacon easily, but by the third, the bacon didn't fully cook," said student Lineker Phuong. "The temperature of our cooking surface decreased gradually even while the temperature inside the box stayed constant throughout the cooking experiment."