Souped-up solar cart dishes out bowls of soup to Maties students

2016-04-15 16:18
A medieval cart with a solar dish heating up a potjie of soup at Stellenbosch University. (Supplied to News24)

A medieval cart with a solar dish heating up a potjie of soup at Stellenbosch University. (Supplied to News24)

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Stellenbosch - It looks like a steampunk satellite from the future. 

There is no catapult sitting atop this six-metre-high medieval cart at Stellenbosch University's Rooiplein. Instead, it's carrying a dish made out of mirrors. 

This dish won't pick up DStv, but it does concentrate sunlight to heat up a 25-litre potjie of soup. 

"We are on our third pot for the day. They all come out steaming hot," Professor Paul Papka, the mastermind behind the experiment, told News24 on Friday. 

"We will continue until the sun dips below the trees."

As each pot of soup is ready, Papka and students from the solar thermal energy research group in the department of physics dish out bowls to passers-by. 

On the sidelines of this spectacle, Professor Frank Dinter and students from the Centre for Renewable Energy Studies prepared wors on a smaller solar panel.

The cart, made from recycled materials, is nine metres long, eight metres wide, and six metres high.

The parabolic mirrors concentrate 12 square metres of sunlight onto a surface area of only 30 square centimetres in order to cook the soup.

"The cart is not a new technology, and neither are the reflectors, which are primitive and made of cheap material," Papka said. 

"We are not pretending we are inventing anything new."

He said there has always been the ability to harness the power of the sun to cook our food, as opposed to the popular method of electric stoves. The entire event is built around promoting the power of solar energy. 

The cart, which took Papka and others a year to build as part of a "weekend project", will be taken to Stonehenge Farm in the Tankwa Karoo in the Northern Cape, where it will go up in flames at the upcoming Afrika Burn festival at the end of April.  

When asked if seeing his creation burnt to ash would make him heartsore, Papka said it was always meant to be an Afrika Burn display, but one he felt he could make a little use of beforehand. 

"We have to make a better one. I consider it my first attempt. We will burn this one, and make the next one better," he said. 

"We need to contribute more to [the awareness] of solar power in South Africa."

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  cape town  |  technology

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