10 April 2014 Volume :2 Issue :17

Physics MSc Examines Efficiency of Solar Cookers

Physics MSc Examines Efficiency of Solar Cookers
MSc cum laude Physics graduate, Mr Heiko Heilgendorff, with his family.

MSc Physics graduate, Mr Heiko Heilgendorff, examined the energy efficiency of solar thermal cookers in his cum laude dissertation.  Heilgendorff worked on a solar cooker that collects sunshine to heat up a thermal storage.

The research involved designing and testing a receiver for a small scale concentrating solar cooker that was kept on the roof of the Physics building, with the performance and efficiency of the project’s receiver being compared with that of the original receiver.

‘Mr Heiko Heilgendorff successfully revised a prior design that uses a semicircular dish that tracks the sun throughout the day,’ said UKZN’s Dr Alan Matthews.

‘The dish is an array of mirror tiles that was carefully arranged and tested for accuracy of focus. The research involved testing two coiled copper pipe receivers onto which sunshine is focused to heat up special oil that circulates through the pipe. The oil carries the solar energy to a storage device that consists of a drum filled with pebbles.

‘Mr Heiko Heilgendorff was successful in designing, constructing and testing the system, and characterising its efficiency, and his well-written thesis earned him an MSc cum laude. Heiko demonstrated an ability to work independently and think of creative solutions to problems, making use of a wide range of theoretical and technical skills,’ said Matthews. 

Heilgendorff acknowledged his father, who served as an inspirational role model.  ‘The research was challenging but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The role of a physicist is to keep pushing the boundaries of knowledge and to produce top-quality science. It is also important that we make this knowledge accessible to others through teaching and through the media. Perhaps the most overlooked role is that we should use our skills to improve the lives of the community around us,’ said Heilgendorff, who is currently working on a PhD in radio astronomy.

-          Leena Rajpal

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