Education Energy & Sustainability Science
Solar Heater From Can Lids and Woven Plants

An interesting experiment from students in a course at Humboldt State University called Appropriate Technology Engineering 305. The parabolic form is essentially a large, shallow basket woven with fibers of locally-gathered Himalaya blackberry, which the students identify as an invasive species. In good weather, their dish could boil a jar of water in about two hours. I always like to see the clever thinking that can result from radical design constraints. [via No Tech Magazine]


8 thoughts on “Solar Heater From Can Lids and Woven Plants

    1. The value is mostly in water pasteurization and supplemental cooking (without depleting a fuel stock, smoke, etc) when the sun is available.

      It should be noted, that the biggest barriers are cultural, not technical.  

  1. Not to put down the work in this, but this is similar to some solar cookers that have been developed over the years. Google solar cooker and you’ll find out how they’ve been trying to encourage folks in developing countries to use them in light of scarce and polluting wood and coal. The use of can lids is innovative because of the use of waste material if clean aluminum foil is hard to come by.

    1. Hi Adam,

      Solar cooking is definitely an old idea. You can see some more about that in the literature review in the project write-up. As you note, the innovation was focused on the use of all waste products, including the can lids and Himalaya blackberry canes which are an invasive species in Northern California that can be bent into a parabolic curve.

      Thanks for your input!

Comments are closed.


I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan