Now we're cookin' and it's a sound idea, too

Thermoacoustic generator may cook and cool, efficiently.

Traditional open fire cooking University of Nottingham

Two billion people around the globe still depend on open wood fires for cooking. That method is 5 percent efficient in using energy. The smoke is unhealthy for all those who must breathe it. And in some areas it's depleting forests that can't grow fast enough.

Now the University of Nottingham is going to try to build a thermoacoustic kitchen. And that's my new word for the day. No, not "kitchen," but "thermoacoustic." Instead of using the usual wood fire, this device would generate "sound waves through the nonuniform heating of gas." Los Alamos Laboratory has pioneered thermoacoustic reasearch: "In intense sound waves in pressurized gases, thermoacoustics can be harnessed to produce powerful engines, pulsating combustion, heat pumps, refrigerators, and mixture separators." You can tell those scientists at Los Alamos know what they're talking about.

So now Nottingham is hoping to build on Los Alamos' pioneering efforts and build a wood fire-powered kitchen device. It would release less smoke:good. It would be far more energy efficient:good. It would both cook and refrigerate for those without electricity: very good. And would be easily maintained as it has almost no moving parts: too good to be true? I don't think the oil companies are going to like this.

About the author

    Harry Fuller escaped from television work to be executive editor at CNET News.com.

     

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