Best Solar Oven Reflector Angle Installment I by curlydock

I wondered what the best angle for the flat solar concentrator or reflector of a box-type solar oven is. So, I conducted a little thought experiment.

figure 8

Fig 8 is a diagram containing three solar ovens, each with a reflector at a different angle. I will define the “reflector angle” as the smallest angle the reflector makes with the plane of the oven window while the reflector surface is exposed to the sun.

Oven A has a reflector angle of 90 degrees. At this angle, the reflector surface does not engage the sun, so it cannot increase the sunlight falling on the box-oven window. It is clear that an angle greater than 90 degrees will cause the reflector to shade the window, obviously not what we want.

Oven C has a reflector angle of 45 degrees. None of the sunlight reaches the oven window because all of the light is reflected parallel to the surface of the window. Also, as the angle becomes smaller than 45 degrees the sunlight is increasingly reflected back toward the sun itself instead of through the window. We don’t want that either.

So, the best angle must be between 45 and 90 degrees. Oven B has a reflector angle of about 60 degrees. I believe most designs use this angle. This angle is between 45 and 90, but is it really the best? Consider the simple average of 45 and 90. That is (45 + 90) / 2 = 67.5 degrees. The difference between 60 and 67.5 of 7.5 seems considerable to me. Might it be better to use 67.5 degrees as the relfector angle of a solar box oven?

This simple thought experiment ignores many complicating issues. It assumes the surface of the window is kept perpendicular to the solar rays. That is not absolutely necessary and may not be true in actual use. But, for the sake of analyis I let that be a constant. Most light is transmitted through a window when the incident rays are at 90 degrees. As the angle becomes more acute, less light is transmitted because it is lost by being reflected away.

That more light is reflected as the incident angle gets smaller has implications for the reflector as well as the window. It suggests that reflectors work better at smaller incident angles. However, as the incident angle diminishes, the reflector must get progressively longer to intercept the same amount of light.

Another assumption in this experiment is that it is conducted deep in outer space. That is not obvious, is it? In fact, only in outer space would all the solar rays arrive at the oven at the same angle. On the surface of our planet, there is a good chance a solar ray will arrive at our oven at almost any other angle than directly from the sun itself. There are many reasons for this. One is the atmosphere which refracts the sunlight. There are particles and clouds that diffuse and reflect the light. Many reflections can occur from the planets surface, some of which are very strong if the surface happens to be a body of water. (This suggests to me we should always paint the outside of a box oven flat black and then wrap the oven with something like bubble wrap.)

Also, real mirrors and windows have imperfections. In a more sophisticated simulation one might take those imperfections into account.

The fascinating complexity if this issue prompted me to build a small device I could use to empirically measure the best reflector angle for a solar box oven. Using the device resulted in a best angle of 59.6 degrees, close enough to 60 degrees! In another installment I hope to describe how that device was constructed and how it works.

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Published in: on October 24, 2006 at 12:06 am  Comments (88)  

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88 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Curlydock,
    While appreciate the thought that you gave to the challenge. Nothing beats real world exerience.
    I suggest you get a couple cardboard boxes, some tin foil and plastic, and make an oven yourself. Aster cooking on a solar oven for over a decade…
    Well you’ll see 🙂
    Winter sun, summer sun are at different angles.
    Flexibility is the key.

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  2. Chris Prelitz:

    If you check out other parts of this site, you will see I have done exactly that. In fact, my actual solar ovens came before both the computer simulations and some empirical experiments with some mirrors and a bead. All are documented in this blog.

    I was very pleased at the results of the actual oven, but I wanted to find the best design so that the minimal amount of raw material and effort would go into an oven having optimum performance.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Curlydock

  3. Thanks,
    IT Helped me in a very important project
    But I heard that the angle between the glass cover and the reflector should be 45 degrees?
    Is that true??

  4. Pretty nice blog you’ve got here. Thanks the author for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

    Best regards

  5. I want to know the difference between mirror and aluminum foil as reflectors in terms of efficiency

  6. If only more people would read about this.

  7. If only more than 31 people would read this!

  8. Incredibly awesome read! Honestly..

  9. Been cooking for the last month in my homemade solar oven.It’s a beauty. Built by my McGyver husband. Taking it to a Dutch oven cooking demo tomorrow afternoon to show off. I guess our angle to be about 50 degree. Solar and Dutch ovens. How cool is that? Like this site.

  10. Ever try a hybrid solar oven? These allow you to plug in when it’s cloudy, and use the sun when its not. Ultimate convenience and energy savings!

  11. I was working on this problem myself. The best angle to use is not a constant value; it depends on the length of the box and on the length of the panel that you are using. I derived an equation which yields the best angle to use for given lengths of the box and panel:

    tangent(2*(90degrees-beta))*sine(beta) – cos(beta) – x/y = 0

    where x = length of the box, y = length of the panel, and beta = angle at which the panel will reflect the most sunlight. Unfortunately, however, the formula only works when only 1 panel is used or (if more panels are used) if the panel length does not exceed the box length (because if the panel length exceeds the box length and two panels are used the panels can be used to reflect sunlight from the other panel into the box). It may take a while before I come up with a completed formula, as it gets much more complicated with two panels. And of course, my formula assumes ideal conditions.

    When the panel length = box length, the formula yields 60 degrees, just as you empirically verified.

  12. Cool post. Waiting for you to continue the topic.

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  13. Thanks for the great article. Very informative. What type of solar project have you built? I would be interested in where this research took you and what you concluded or created. Cheers!

  14. Thanks so much!!! it helped me alot in my science project when my science teacher didn’t tell what to do. Don’t be scared to do more of these kind of things. Thanks 😀 Bye 🙂

  15. Cool stuff! I will return for new info! Keep it up! And don’t forget to add even more images!

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  16. Cooking in my solar oven for the first time as I’m typing. Up to 200F in 30 min. Yea! Will be building reflectors shortly. Have my oven mounted on a lazy susan on top of an old gas grill base. I can wheel it around and change the angle easily.

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