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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster 204

An anonymous reader writes Oxford University engineering professor Dr Thomas Povey just invented a new cooking pot that heats food 40% faster. The pot is made from cast aluminum, and it features fins that direct flames across the bottom and up the sides, capturing energy that would otherwise be wasted. The pot is set to hit the market next month in the UK. "Povey specializes in the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet engines. He is also an avid mountaineer and says that this invention was spurred by the long time it takes for water to reach a boil at high altitudes. He and a group of his students worked three years experimenting with different designs before they came up with one being marketed."
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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

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  • I'm going to try and buy some... sadly live in the US so this might be complicated... and ironically they're apparently made in the US... yet not sold here... Why are so many companies incompetent at just shutting up and taking my money!

    I ran into a similar situation with an Italian movie company... I wanted to buy an Italian movie... you cannot buy it... it isn't possible. They're not on any of the streaming sites. They're not on any of the online retailing sites... its literally impossible to buy the movi

    • only available in CO and WA.

      I'll have to see if my Bundt pan boils water quickly. Or hammer an iron rod on an old pot.

    • Why are so many companies incompetent at just shutting up and taking my money!

      What I think is funny is that this is a classic example of a good patent: a "Why didn't I think of that?" kind of thing. Because despite the implications in the article, this ain't "rocket science" all all. They just took the well-known concepts behind any decent heatsink and reversed them.

      • The basic concept isn't rocket science. Optimizing the shape to maximize heat transfer is.

      • Re:very cool (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @08:32PM (#47445571) Homepage

        Likely because they ain't cooks. The pot works well if the pot is full, if not it burns food up the sides of the pot, especially those bits you leave behind when stirring. The pot has far more surface area to clean. The pot only work with gas. The catch is for those who cook you really only want your heat at the bottom of the pot and not so much at the sides, in fact optimum pot design is insulated sides and a very conductive base. Even the base tends to be better for cooking a thick cast iron in order to balance out the vagaries of thermostats. Yep he is definitely a rocket scientist and not a cook.

        • Actually, looks like quite thick walls on the pan; so the heat should conduct down to the liquid really quite well; having thick walls avoids that exact problem; and aluminium is a very, very good conductor of heat.

      • It isn't even new. I've owned one of these for years. Check out the primus brand pots for example. The idea of putting a heat exchanger in a pot has been around for a long time. I can attest that they are very efficient though.
  • I guess he didn't use the JetBoil pot whilst backpacking.

  • Once again, -after- someone else makes something I think, wow that's so obvious.

  • Since I have an electric stove - together with probably more than 95% of all households where I live (in Sweden).

    The latest fad is induction heating, and I don't see that such a pot would be any advance there either.

    • No, but commercial kitchens in most of the developed world use gas. It's generally sought after in homes by cooking enthusiasts as well. My point is even in Sweden if these things became common in restaurant it could save a lot of gas, and restaurant owners are usually about the bottom line in my experience.
      • Because cooking is all about how fast you can get the BTUs into the food?

        Is there any kind of cooking, besides bringing water to a boil, where this will actually help? Any market beyond English/Scottish food?

        • I believe you could use less gas even if you aren't cranked 100% because it's more efficient at heat transfer. Also, rice and pasta are made from boiled water, as well as water boiling being needed for soups. I think these foods go beyond England and Scotland.
        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          I don't want BTUs in my food, I use metric, so it has to be Joules.

      • by Misagon ( 1135 )

        Chefs prefer gas over electric stoves because it heats the cookwares fast, directly - not indirectly through a cooking plate that has to get warm first and stays warm afterwards.

        Induction stoves are just as fast as gas burners, and has better thermal efficiency, plus being safer.
        The drawback is that the cookware has to be of iron and have a flat bottom. Cast-iron pots and pans used to be very heavy, but there is cookware today where the iron layer is sandwiched with ceramic or aluminium which are much light

  • I didn't view the images because you just get black squares without scripts. Come on, Slashdot, link a site that can write HTML, not where they're too incompetent to display images without javascript. This is 1990s technology. What year is it?

    Anyway, on topic, all you actually need is a skirt to channel heat up the sides of the pot. If it's a little lower than the pot itself then the heat will flow up the sides of the pot and you get massively more heat transfer. One little piece of sheet metal, done.

  • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @11:59AM (#47442947)

    I use a couple of inch (5 cm) high ring of aluminum foil, shiny side in, around the burner. That reflects heat from the burner and the pot itself back onto the pot, and reduces convection losses by partly blocking air coming in around the edges. Obviously if you are using gas burners, you need enough air for the flame. A strip of foil is going to be way way cheaper than an $85 pot.

    When choosing pots, pick one that is black, not shiny, or make it black by burning stuff on the outside. Black surfaces absorb heat better.

  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:04PM (#47442969)

    So, what this pan does is actually very simple; the fins on the sides provide more surface area to catch the heat that slides up the side by convection forces when the pan sits on a gas burner. The "gas burner" part is incredibly important, as if you have an electric burner there will be negligible benefit, and maybe even a negative result. That extra surface area can bleed heat as well as it collects it. And since the pans are cast aluminum, if you have an induction cooktop they won't work at all.

    So, let's say you have a gas burner, and one of these pans. Here's what I see as a potential issue. The walls of this pan will get hotter than they do when you use another more traditional type of pan. And that's not necessarily a problem, as long as you keep stirring. But that extra heat will tend to cause liquid at the edge/top of the contents of the pan (the meniscus) to heat far more aggressively. Which means that you will likely get a degree of crusting, scorching, etc...depending on what's in the pan, of course. Water? No problem, it's water. But if you're cooking a sauce, or making something like boxed risotto (not the real hardcore risotto, which requires constant stirring and so would not scorch) or some other grain, you may have some issues. They have a stockpot, which at first would seem like the ideal situation...except that if you're doing most things you would do with a classical stockpot (like making a large batch of stock or soup or stew) you may have MAJOR issues with that scorching.

    I have to say...I have a gas cooktop, I cook a lot, I cook elaborately, we have a gas dryer, we have gas-fired heat in the winter. It's a decent-sized single family home. And my gas bill doesn't get high at all...average is a bit less than $50/month. I find it hard to imagine that these pots would make much of a difference in my gas consumption at all. Maybe if my cooktop were really wimpy, the speed of cooking would be nice...but isn't the better option just to get a better cooktop in that case? These pans don't help if you're using a skillet, or the oven (which would also probably be weak if the top burners of the stove are weak), and they cost quite a lot. It'd be cheaper to just upgrade the cooktop than replace all of your pans with this, and the results will be more controllable. I'd love a big pot to boil water for pasta that worked like this...but for every other application it seems to me that upgrading the range would be a better way to go.

    But hey, that's just my two cents.

  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:08PM (#47442985)

    When I was in the military and trying to cook frozen food over a camp stove in the Arctic we used pressure cookers. It is fast and heated the food completely without burning the bottom. It is also the most energy-efficient method of cooking [] Now if they added the flare design to a pressure cooker they might have the best of both designs.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:10PM (#47442995) Journal
    Back in my undergrad days I worked on a ducted windmill and my friend worked on improving the firewood stoves used by typical rural south Indian womenfolk. A circle of stones with an aluminium pot on top was what he was trying to "improve". Did some clay based sealing of gaps and nice clay ring to set the pot on top with carefully created vents. All using plain stones and clay. Was able to raise the efficiency of heat transfer to the pot. No material to buy at all, just stones and clay.

    Well, field trials revealed that he was too good and raised the temperature to nearly the melting point of aluminium! The flue gases and soot abraded the bottom of the pots and they started leaking in just a few sessions. The older inefficient method wasted firewood, but the pots lasted longer.

    • oops hit submit too soon.

      The flare pot looks nice and it might improve heat transfer. If the interior is also fluted, it would be very difficult to keep clean. The exterior flukes have nice large radius of curvature so should be easy to clean, but still not as easy to clean as the regular smooth pans. Food in contact with the wall might heat up too quickly and not transfer the heat to rest of the food. Food away from the wall might be undercooked and the food in contact with the wall might char. It is pro

      • Food in contact with the wall might heat up too quickly and not transfer the heat to rest of the food. Food away from the wall might be undercooked and the food in contact with the wall might char. It is probably suitable for soups and broths. But for cooking rice and such not very liquidy food, heating the wall too rapidly would be a problem.

        You have the same problem with any regular pot with too much heat. The point here is to improve efficiency, so you can actually turn down the flame. In addition, it looks like the heat will be more evenly distributed between the bottom and the walls, which would also help avoid burning the food.

      • The flare pot looks nice and it might improve heat transfer. If the interior is also fluted, it would be very difficult to keep clean.

        Interior is non-stick and would be impossible to use if fluted for most applications. Imagine trying to fry an egg in a fluted interior. It's not a bundt pan.

        Personally I'd prefer it without the nonstick surface (or non-stick optional) and for it to be machine washable. With a few specialty exceptions all my pans are machine washable which is super convenient. If it is machine washable the cleaning issues self resolve by putting it in the dishwasher.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      So, if a fire's too hot then what's stopping you from making the fire smaller and distributing the heat a bit?

  • so everyone who does not have a gas stove does not care (which is pretty much everyone I know) - much to my dismay because I like gas stoves :(

  • by Tangential ( 266113 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:33PM (#47443081) Homepage
    I'm not much of an aluminum fan for cookware. Since its made via casting, how about an iron one?
  • by syngularyx ( 1070768 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @01:06PM (#47443265)
    This is a good opportunity to quote this famous faxlore.. Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd hardly call the Flare pot a breakthrough, although it is a very smart design.

    Corrugated, punctated, ungulated, and other stressed-surface cooking pots have been around for thousands of years for this exact reason. The Guarani of Brazil basically perfected the technique in their incredibly efficient cooking pots--this was the topic of my Fulbright archaeological research in 2008-2009.

    In ceramics, a corrugated finish not only takes better advantage of the fire, but also prevents thermal stress fractures,

  • It looks like there's more to it than increased surface area - the Coand effect [] may be at work here, making the plumes of hot gas creep along the "trenches" rather than flare out. There's a video [] where it kind of shows what I mean at (1'25").

    Then again, this may be just a case of increased area for heat transfer. I'm not a rocket engineer.

  • I only use ceramic non-stick or all steel pots. I hope they have something more than "all aluminum" or it's at least coated with another non-toxic material.
    • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

      I only use ceramic non-stick or all steel pots. I hope they have something more than "all aluminum" or it's at least coated with another non-toxic material.

      Let me guess, you don't get vaccinated, either...

  • melted so fast when put on the burner. The bump/fins made them heat up too much.

  • It may be more efficient, but its not going to help at altitude.
    Water boils at lower temperature at high altitude. eg. 85 degree C. This means many foods to not get cooked. So you need a "Pressure cooker".

    This will help at low altitudes, and that too for some things. For other stuff, this will cause caking and crusing due to too much heat.

  • Pretty sure (and the laws of physics would agree with me) that induction cooking methods will heat your pot far faster and more efficiently than gas, no matter what clever designs are achieved.

  • This isn't a new concept. It is well known larger surface area absorbs more heat. This exact design is widely used for backpack stoves so that you can heat up water quickly and waste little fuel, like for example Jetboil: []

  • The Turbopot has a finned aluminum base and promises a 59% improvment in efficiency. []

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead