The Wilson Solar Grill can not only  cook your food when the sun is out during the day, but it can store that heat energy and so you can cook your food at night. How you ask? The solar grill uses a fresnel lens to heat Lithium Nitrate. (Lithium nitrate “is the lithium salt of nitric acid. It is made by reacting lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide with nitric acid.“) ~Wikipedia

It will store the heat energy for up to 25 hours released as a convective heat at temperatures of 450 degrees F.

Barbecuing is one of the greatest pastimes for many, but it certainly isn’t one of our most environmentally friendly. Whether you prefer charcoal, wood chips or propane, grilling releases emissions and contributes to poor air quality. Up until now, solar powered grilling has required, as you might expect, the sun, which means traditional fuel-fired grills are required after sunset. But new solar technology developed by MIT professor David Wilson could bring a nighttime solar-powered grill to the market very soon; an invention also of great benefit to those in developing nations who rely on wood to cook all their food.

In the future, these could be commonly used for backyard cooking at home:

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Wilson’s technology harnesses the sun and stores latent heat to allow cooking times for up to an amazing twenty five hours at temperatures above 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The technology uses a Fresnel lens to harness the sun’s energy to melt down a container of Lithium Nitrate. The Lithium Nitrate acts as a battery storing thermal energy for 25 hours at a time. The heat is then released as convection for outdoor cooking.

“There are a lot of solar cookers out there,” says Wilson, “but surprisingly not many using latent-heat storage as an attribute to cook the food.”

Wilson developed the idea after spending time in Nigeria, where wood is used for cooking, which causes a number of problems. Not only is cooking with firewood leading to respiratory illnesses, but is also increasing the rate of deforestation and women are being raped while searching for wood.

A group of MIT students are working with the technology to develop a prototype solar grill. Derek Ham, Eric Uva, and Theodora Vardouli are conducting a study through their multi-disciplinary course “iTeams,” short for “Innovation Teams”, to determine the interest in such a concept and then hopefully launch a business to manufacture and distribute these grills. The goal is to develop a business model for distributing solar grills to developing nations as well as a grill for the world market. The American version is expected to be a hybrid propane/solar model that will allow for flame cooking as well as through thermal convection.

Technically, you could use this same technology to store the heat energy and heat your home, your water, and probably generate electricity as well. Heat is after all energy, and energy can be converted to electricity. All you need is heat, and this technology could provide it.

UPDATE: This is a concept product, so there hasn’t been a working prototype released. The photos are for promotional use and have been artificially constructed. But it is based on real technology and science. The Sun is a powerful source of energy, and capturing that energy with fresnel lenses and storing the heat energy is possible and is already being done. There is concern about the practical viability of this concept with being too complicated and expensive.

While the goal of creating a solar grill with the latent heat storage capacity they are projecting is fascinating, the grill is still a ways from becoming a production reality.

Possibly there will be project updates from the designers in the future. Will will update this page when we find out more.

Please see the reference links below.

Thermal Energy Storage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_energy_storage

World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant With Storage Comes Online
Read more at: http://cleantechnica.com

Source: Inhabitat