Full steam ahead for rocket scientist’s saucepan design

He’s the Rocket Man that hopes his new Rocket Pan might just take off.

Dr Thomas Povey, a keen mountaineer and a bona fide rocket scientist from Oxford University who designs cooling systems for jet engines, has designed a new saucepan which heats more quickly, cooks food faster and uses 40% less energy than your ordinary saucepan.

He decided to take on the task of inventing a more efficient saucepan after struggling to heat up water when at high altitude in the mountains.

Realising that a large amount of energy is lost by heating the pan rather than the water, he turned his focus away from jet engines and towards the humble saucepan.

“The original idea was for the outdoor market — we wanted to improve efficiency for cooking outside. But we realised it was a problem that applies to the domestic market. So we worked from there,” he told The Telegraph.

Dr Povey’s innovative ‘Flare Pan’ design uses cast aluminium channels built into the side of the pan to allow heat from the base to travel around the sides so that food or liquid is heated faster and from all the way around.

An ordinary pan was found to need in the region of 40% more energy to achieve the same results.

“There’s nothing wrong with (a normal saucepan), but it loses a lot of heat which means it has less energy efficiency, which means it wastes more heat, energy, and gas. For instance if you were boiling pasta you may think it takes a long while to get the water boiling, but you would see a significant time improvement with this new pan and it would cook quicker,” he said.

“The problem with the current shape of the pan means a lot of the heat is dissipated into the air.

“So, it is an aero-dynamic and heat transfer problem and we applied the science used in rocket and jet engines to create a shape of a pan that is more energy-efficient,” he added.

The pan has already been a hit with chefs who have tried it in a number of test kitchens and the product has won the 2014 Hawley Award for engineering innovation.

All fired up

Engineers at UCD have been hired by the European Space Agency to find new ways to reduce vibrations as rockets launch for space.

The €250,000 contract will see UCD engineers design a “control algorithm” which can tell the launcher’s rocket engines and thrusters how they can most effectively be fired and controlled, to absorb vibrations.

Vibrations can damage structure and payload. Less vibration is better as the speed rises to 28,000 km/h from a standstill.

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