Degree Name

BS in Physics


Physics Department


Peter Schwartz


As a means of cooking food, the burning of biomass accounts for over 4 million premature deaths in third world countries (“Household Air Pollution and Health”). The focus of this project was to explore an alternative that could utilize focused sunlight to cook food. A solar tracker was designed to be affixed to a parabolic, reflective, tilted single axis heliostat to follow the sun throughout the day and focus the reflected light to the bottom of a cooking surface. This surface became hot enough to for the preparation of food or boiling/sterilization of water.

A goal for each project was to keep the price of components down in order to make the whole venture more affordable for implementing in a 3rd world country. The solar tracker would utilize a motor to turn the heliostat and a circuit was designed to locate the sun actively throughout the day using two light dependent resistors that compared the intensity of sunlight across a partition. A 3.7V, 800mAh Lithium Ion battery was picked to power the tracker based on calculations of how much power it needed to operate, and a 5V, 50mA solar panel was selected to recharge the battery based on how quickly it was being depleted. Additionally the circuit was housed in a tough, watertight container to survive rough handling and weather conditions. Difficulties encountered during the course of the project included designing the circuit to be as small and energy efficient as possible, and keeping the price reasonably low. Some considerations were how the circuit would operate at night without sunlight to guide it.