From the Library: Solar Cooker

Here’s another “what is it?” from the image collection:

Vertical Access Solar Furnace at Fuller Road Laboratory, ca. 1970s

If you’re like me, you associate the phrase “solar cooker” with a summer camp construction project made out of cardboard and aluminum foil, used to toast a marshmallow.  But that’s not the limit of solar ovens.  At the extreme end of the range, the Odeillo solar furnace is southern France is capable of producing temperatures of  3,500 °C.  Or course, it’s over 50 meters tall.  Still, much more modest solar furnaces are still capable of producing usefully high temperatures.

This device, called a vertical access solar furnace, could focus sunlight into the small dome seen in the center.  A small sample of material could be placed in the center dome, and it would then be subjected to a beam of extremely powerful light capable of heating the sample to high temperature.  I haven’t found a record of how hot it could go, but a slightly larger version of this device in Texas managed 3,000 °C.  These temperatures could simulate the  extreme conditions that particles could experience in space or when entering the earth’s atmosphere.

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