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 $30 (plus the cost of a 100 W solar panel), from the construction manuals:
Basic direct-connect (with no thermal storage). This is a “live document” and you can leave comments/questions so that we can improve the document.
ISEC with Phase Change Thermal Storage for higher power and cooking after dark.
– The entire library of Improved Construction Manuals
– Alexis Zeigler at Living Energy Farms, is introducing ISEC in Jamaica using a completely different construction process. The have redesigned ISEC construction for the direct heat, “daylight drive” ISEC to use locally available materials and simple assembly processes for reduced construction time and reduced cost. Please see his presentation to our research group, Feb. 22, 2021. Also please see his complete construction manual.
– Please visit our Forum on ISEC construction. Please post a question, and read the questions and answers posted.
– Contact us with any difficulties and/or recommendations for improvements,


Learn more about ISEC:

1) 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) We explain ISEC technology with thermal storage and the collaborative dissemination model in our presentations at the ETHOS (Engineers in the Technical and Humanitarian Opportunities of Service) conference end of January, 2021. In June, we provided this updated presentation to EWB, Sweden.

3) Our first paper explaining how a 100 W solar panel can cook food for a large family: 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. We have since abandoned heating with diodes.

5) Our most recent paper, describing the improvement with thermal storage: Phase change thermal storage: Cooking with more power and versatility Martin Osei*, Owen Staveland*, Sean McGowan*, Justin Brett Unger*, Nathan Robert Christler*, Matthew Weeman*, Marcus Edward Strutz*, Matthew Walker*, Megan Belle Maun*, Nicolas C. Dunning*, Marcorios M. Bekheit*, Jon Christian Papa Abraham*, Liam Cox*, Grace Gius*, Olivia Hansel*, Emmanuel Osei Amoafo, Nichole Hugo, Pete Schwartz, J. Solar Energy, 220, 2021, 1065-1073,

5) Cooking in the laboratory: 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?

12) Kuyere!, in Malawi is made this video of how they are making ISECs with thermal storage.

13) 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

14) 2021 Mechanical Engineering Senior Project produced an ISEC with erythritol PCM inside of a ~3 liter vacuum-insulated container. They have a video and a website.

15) Senior Projects:



MECS Grant for Research and Dissemination: With $40,000 of UKAid funding via MECS, (Sept. 2019 – March 2020), we developed thermal storage at Cal Poly in California, and established a company in Ghana to build and distribute ISECs while studying the adoption process.

We received a follow-up grant for $62,000 (August 2020 – July 2021) to continue improving the design and subsidize construction capacity in local enterprises in non-industrial countries. 


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, MECS collaborator

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.

John Mullett ( of SOWTech, UK and in Malawi

Emmanuel Kweku Osei, manager of SolCook, Ghana, MECS collaborator

Ajay Chandak, PRINCE, India

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

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

Alexis Zeigler at Living Energy Farms, an intentional community exploring sustainable living accessible to low income communities. They plan to put introduce ISEC in Jamaica. MECS collaborator. Progress videos: February 1, 2021

Project Peanut Butter, Sierra Leone. MECS collaborator, with in country contact, Julius Walker Butcher 

Deepak Gadhia, at Muni Seva Ashram, MECS collaborator and technical specialist, Prasad Gangavkar

Bidjanga Biloa of GERPAD (Green Energy Research Program for Africa’s Development) in Cameroon. 

Nexleaf Analytics, designing sensing technology to preserve human life and protect the planet. They provided us with about 20 thermal data loggers called Treks, but now are marketed under StoveTrace.



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)

SuperGroup April 8, 2021

SuperGroup April 15, 2021

SuperGroup April 22, 2021

Research, April 28, 2021

SuperGroup April 29, 2021

May 7 meeting with Bidjanga

May 13, SuperGroup meeting

May 20, 2021 SuperGroup meeting

May 27, 2021 SuperGroup meeting

June 17, 2021

June 24

July 1, 2021

July 8, 2021: no picture taken 🙁 

July 15, 2021





ISEC Resources and Archival Information