DIY Solar Oven
Discovery Place Science
Solar energy is light and heat that is emitted from the sun. It can be used to pasteurize water or sterilize items. And we can use solar energy to cook food in a DIY solar oven.
A solar oven catches sunlight by using a reflector and reflecting the light onto a black surface. The black surface transforms the light into heat which is then trapped in the upside-down glass bowl. Kind of like heat getting trapped in a car on a hot day.
The solar oven cooks food slowly on a low heat over a long period of time. A solar oven can reach about 200°F on a sunny day. While this cooking method takes longer than a normal oven, it is functional, easy to use and safe to leave alone while energy from the sun cooks your food! Plus, it's using science and how great is that?
While using your solar oven think about how the weather outside effects your ovens performance. How well does it perform on a warm day versus a hot day? How does your solar oven compare to a real oven? What variables can you tweak to make your solar oven perform better?
Precaution: This is an experimental activity; solar cooked food should be eaten with care. Solar ovens do get hot, always supervise young children.
- Pringles can
- Scissors or box cutters
- Large glass bowl
- Black construction paper
- Oven mitts
Building your Solar Oven:
1. Using scissors or box cutters cut a flap on the side of your can. Cut along 3 sides. We cut the Nutrition label and that seemed a good size.
2. Fold the flap back so that it stands up
3. Cover the inside of the flap using aluminum foil to reflect the rays from the sun. Use tape to secure the foil to the flap. With a Pringles can it is already reflective on the inside, this is just for extra precaution.
4. Prop the flap open.
5. Place a sheet of black construction paper inside the can (Possibly cover the top with plastic wrap)
6. If you have a second thermometer place it outside your solar oven so you can compare the two temperatures.
Using your Solar Oven
1. Set up the oven outside in the sun with the reflector (the flap you created) facing the sun directly.
2. It is best to use the oven when the sun is high overhead, around 11am to 3pm.
3. Once the temperature inside your oven reaches 178°F (70°C) it is ready to use.
4. As the sun moves adjust your oven so that the reflector stays facing the sun.
5. Begin cooking!
Some things to try cooking:
- Baked potato
- Heat up leftovers
Be sure to use oven mitts when lifting the glass bowl to take your food out of the oven! (Just pop the lid off the side and slide out your food)
Extra experiment - Rainbow Crayons
- Old crayons
- Silicon cupcake liners
- Break up some old crayons and place assorted colors into the silicon cupcake liners.
- Place into the Solar oven until melted.
- Some larger chunks may not melt and that is ok!
- Take crayons out of the Solar Oven and let cool.
- Once hardened remove from silicon liners and color away!
Further Learning: Try this on a bigger scale with a pizza box and foil and try cooking a whole meal with your family!