Can aluminum save the world? If the vision from University Of Iowa professors comes to fruition, it just might. Professors Meena Khandelwal and H.S. Udaykumar aren’t striving for the world’s ultimate energy source or some miracle diplomacy between world powers, but their current project does address deforestation, hunger, and women’s health in developing-world conditions.


Khandelwal, an anthropology/women’s studies professor, and Udaykumar, a mechnical engineering professor, may make for an unlikely pair but their project affects both of their fields: an inexpensive solar-powered cooker that minimizes the need for firewood, enables cooking at all hours, and reduces the risk of lung cancer. From the Daily Iowan:


Three billion people worldwide use firewood for cooking.


The women of Karech Village in western India alone harvest 70 pounds of firewood a day to use for that reason.


This constant use of firewood leads to rapid deforestation and also puts women in grave danger — smoke inhalation is the fifth-largest killer in India.


Students and faculty gathered at the University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies on Wednesday night to hear of two UI professors’ efforts to develop an inexpensive solar cooker that they believe will address both problems.


Udaykumar said the solution to this problem was to create a solar cooker that could be used during non-daylight hours.  He said the affordable solar cooker is planned to consist of a lens, a cube-shaped storage device made of aluminum, and an inside solar source.


Think about it: a simple aluminum cube and some solar technology may help save the environment, reduce the risk of lung cancer, and strengthen the health and well-being of populations in developing countries. While we talk about the latest news using aluminum in cars and smartphones, this might be the most innovative, most impactful idea of them all.