I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at Balliol College, Oxford and then took up a post-doctoral position (1972-74) at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California. I returned to Oxford where I have been a Fellow of Lincoln since 1976.
For the college, I teach physics to the first year students and some of the physics for Part A. My university teaching currently includes the energy studies and medical and environmental physics minor options. I am also involved with the teaching of nuclear and particle physics.
After the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment ended in 2008, I continued working some of my time on the neutrino-less double beta decay experiment SNO+, but my main interest now is on developing a low-cost solar cooker for the developing world.
An estimated 1.6 million people in the developing world die each year from smoke inhalation due to cooking indoors using biomass and fossil fuels (WHO). An effective low-cost solar cooker would not only save lives but would enhance the quality of the lives of women and children by removing the necessity of long treks to collect ever decreasing amounts of brushwood.
I have been working with colleagues in the Engineering department, Mike Dadd (Lincoln 1975), Paul Bailey, Ian Berryman, Tom Smith, and Richard Stone on this project, and we have designed a low-cost durable solar cooker in collaboration with Dytecna Ltd., a design engineering company migrating its skills into the clean tech sector. Prototype units are currently (late 2013) being built and field trials in Africa are planned for early in 2014.
The research has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and we have shown that two single curvature surfaces can focus sunlight to a point and in a way well-suited for a solar cooker: the Sun’s energy can be directed off a conical mirror onto a parabolic mirror and then to the underside of a cooking platform, which can be located away from the ground and where the user can be shielded from the direct sun. The single curvature surfaces in the concentrator allow the reflective surfaces to be formed from hardwearing flat reflective sheets. This approach reduces costs and will enable the concentrator to be flat-packed - an essential requirement for disaster relief operations.
The cooker can be used with a saucepan on a cooking surface, with an oven, or just with a suspended pot. The design has been called the ‘Albedo Solar Cooker’ and with simple additions it may also be used for solar drying food and as a water sterilisation system. To track the Sun, the mirror system merely has to be rotated about an axis during the day; the axis has to be altered weekly to follow the seasonal variation in the Sun’s path. The trials and their evaluation will open up exciting areas of research, one being thermal storage using phase change materials to not only enable evening cooking but also possibly provide electricity using thermoelectric generators for lighting, mobiles (both web and phone), and refrigeration.