Solar Electric Cooking

Part of Radically Inexpensive Solar Electricity for the Global Poor


According to the World Health Organization, 3 billion people in the world cook with biomass and coal; consequently, 4 million people die from associated emissions. In many communities, biomass cooking has lead to deforestation and can cause harmful pollution to the environment. Women are threatened by sexual assault when they leave their communities to collect firewood or purchase coal. The purpose of our research is to minimize the environmental impact and health issues that arise from biomass cooking.

Our Solution

Insulated Solar Electric Cooking (ISEC): An inexpensive (~$1.00) heater connects directly to a solar panel inexpensively cooking food and providing electricity to charge batteries or power appliances.

1) We invented Insulated Solar Electric Cooking! If the cooking chamber is insulated, a low power (~ 100 W) system costing less than $100 can slow cook a family’s meal in several hours: Insulated Solar Electric Cooking – Tomorrow’s Healthy Affordable Stoves?, T. Watkins*, P. Arroyo*, R. Perry*, R. Wang*, O. Arriaga*, M. Fleming*, C. O’Day*, I. Stone*, J. Sekerak*, D. Mast*, N. Hayes*, P. Keller, P. Schwartz, Development Engineering 2 (2017) 47–52. See the  associated video.

2) We improved on the above technology by heating with diodes rather than with a resistive heater: Hot Diodes!: Dirt Cheap Cooking and Electricity for the Global Poor? Grace Gius, Matthew Walker, Andre Li, Nicholas Adams, R. Van Buskirk, P. Schwartz, Development Engineering, 4 (2019)  100044

3) See the video showing how the use of phase change thermal storage allows an ISEC user to both cook after dark as well as dump the stored energy (of the melted phase change material) into the food in a short time at elevated power.

4) We separate the pot with the food in it from the heater in order to make cooking more convenient. Please see this video about how to bake with the sleeved ISEC

5) August, 2019, we built and tested ISEC as we plan a small company to build and disseminate ISECs in local communities. Please see this short video: Solar Cooking in Ghana.

6) The Phase Change Thermal Storage (#3 and #5 above) was developed in AY 2018-2019 by a team of four mechanical engineering students: Nate Christler, Marcus Strutz, Justin Unger, Matthew Weeman, Insulated Solar Electric Cooker with Thermal Storage, June 2019

7) Nick Adams, 2020 report on Thermal Destruction of Diodes


Work in Ghana: With $40,000 of UKAid funding via MECS, we are establishing a company in Ghana called SolarElectricCook to build and distribute ISECs while studying the adoption process.


Fred Akuffo, operator of Aekosolar Enterprise, solar engineering, Kumasi, Ghana. Description of Priorities: Imports of solar panels and provides market guidance.

 Crosby Menzies, and his African Solar Cooking Company, SunFire


This work is part of our research toward radically inexpensive solar electricity. Please meet our research team. We intend to integrate ISEC with home electrical systems, in collaboration with Kuyere! in Malawi, and Aid Africa in Uganda. Additionally, this work has been addressed by group projects in Schwartz’s Appropriate Technology Classes in Spring of 2019, Fall of 2018, Spring of 2018 and another project, Fall of 2017, Spring of 2017 and another projectFall of 2016, Winter 2016, and Fall 2015 and another project. For a Cost Benefit Analysis of this project, click here.

 Not a publication: Matt Walker’s Independent Study Report (Winter 2019) outlines our first baking implementations as well as general improvements in ISEC using diode heating with 1N5402 rectifier diodes purchased through TME (Transfer Multisort Elektronik),  factory specifications. We’ve recently conducted experiments using Grape solar panels. See factory specifications: GS-STAR-100W.

ISEC Archival Information