Graduate Program

Sustainable Energy

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2022

Thesis Director

Nichole Hugo

Thesis Committee Member

Jerry Cloward

Thesis Committee Member

Isaac Slaven

Thesis Committee Member

Peter V. Schwartz


With an Insulated Solar Electric Cooker (ISEC), a 100 W solar panel directly cooks food while providing 5W off-grid electricity access; but it cooks slowly. Storing the day’s energy with phase change thermal storage allows ISEC to cook more rapidly as well as cook after sunset. The ISEC is made by sticking a 3ohm resistive to an aluminum pot (inner phase change assembly PCA) where another cooking pot fits. The resistive heater is surrounded by a bigger pot (outer PCA) that contains the PCM and is tightly sealed. The solar panel is connected to the resistive heater with a thermal switch and fuse.

The convenience and utility of this new cooking technology improve as the user adapts to unique opportunities and limitations. The efficiency of thermal storage is comparable to that of more expensive systems using battery storage and induction cooktops. Best cooking time is achieved by raising water to its boiling temperature under 10 minutes, obtained by heating the PCA to ~142°C and testing different configurations of the PCA with 1.0 kg of water. A Global Community of researchers, funding agencies, nonprofits, student groups, and local enterprises develops this opensource technology for production and dissemination.

Most households in rural communities depend on burning firewood, charcoal, and coal as their primary source of fuel for cooking. With potential benefits in the field of sustainability through a reduction in production levels of carbon monoxide and deforestation, this project will also prevent the deaths of four million people annually from associated emissions.