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 electric heater connects directly to a solar panel inexpensively cooking food and providing electricity to charge batteries or power appliances. Having a lower power (~ 100 W) solar panel makes the device inexpensive (less than $100) but in order to cook, requires insulation. Thus, an ISEC is a solar electric heater inside of a retained heat cooker.

Please build your own ISEC for under $100, from the construction manuals:
Basic direct-connect with no thermal storage (recommended as first ISEC)
ISEC with Phase Change Thermal Storage for higher power and cooking after dark.
Contact us with any difficulties and/or recommendations for improvements,
Please visit our Forum on ISEC construction. Please post a question, and read the questions and answers posted.

Learn more about ISEC:

1) To get an idea of what ISEC is, please see this short video: Solar Cooking in Ghana. In August, 2019, we built and tested ISEC as we planned a small company to build and disseminate ISECs in local communities. 

2). For a more thorough explanation of our technology, please see this Webinar Pete gave on Oct. 4, 2020: Solar Electric Cooking: Starting Businesses with the Global Learning Community, International Physics Webinar (Virtual, Via FaceBook, Bangladesh) Flyer

3)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.

4) 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

5) 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.

6) 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

7) 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

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

9) A student group from the Spring 2020 appropriate technology class posted this informative video about how to make an ISEC without thermal storage.

10) Please see our GIS study showing visual data of partner countries, showing deforestation and health data.

11) An article from Low-Tech magazine summarizing the role of insulation in cooking: If we Insulate Our Houses, Why Not Our Cooking Pots?


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


Pete Schwartz, Physics Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California, ISEC Principal Investigator

Nichole Hugo, professor from Eastern Illinois University

Martin Osei, Graduate Student at Eastern Illinois University, Founder of SolCook, Ghana

Crosby Menzies, and his African Solar Cooking Company, SunFire

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

Clif Hiebsch, and Miranda Kelly of WAEV dedicated to empowering Masai women in Tanzania, please see WAEV project from Fall 2019.

Ángel Marroquín de Jesús. PhD., Professor Energías Renovables, Universidad Tecnológica de San Juan del Río, Mexico

John Mullett ( of SOWTech, UK and in Malawi

Emmanuel Kweku Osei (, manager of SolCook, Ghana

Sophie Brock, Solar Household Energy, SHE globally, but with operations in Oaxaca, Mexico

Ajay Chandak, PRINCE, India

Salma Bougoune, OSMER company of construction and distribution of  sustainable energy equipment, Togo

Spring of ’20, a team of professionals promoting novel technologies and lifestyle through collaborations and creative projects.


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.


Laboratory Research Team, summer 2020: cooking in quarantine

Quarantine Team, Summer 2020


Weekly SuperGroup Meetings research team, dissemination team, and global collaborators (Dec 8, 2020)




ISEC Resources and Archival Information