Solar cookers have been promoted as a safe alternative to boil water, cook food, or even sterilize medical equipment, but many require the user to move the unit so that its focal point is in direct line with the sun. It is a seemingly simple move, but critics claim it has tended to deter users from cooking with them.

To address the inconvenience of using a standard solar cooker, South African electrical engineer Wilfred Leslie Owen Fritz developed a version that tracks the sun’s rays automatically, allowing the user to leave it in the same place. He created the Water&Solar100  which is a next-generation multipurpose solar generator. Functioning as a water purifier and solar-cooker, it is lightweight and portable, tracks the sun automatically, has temperature and timing controls and generates electricity to charge batteries.

It can be placed in any part in the world and when the sun comes up, it will automatically track where the sun’s rays are most concentrated and then follow that path. You do not need to move it, you just place it. You can also leave your food on [the cooker], and as soon as the temperature gets too high, it moves the focal point away [for you] so that your food remains at the temperature you have set for it.

It also functions as a water purifier.  Fritz developed a wider version that would allow for larger, more effective use. “That doesn’t create a focal point but a focal line, which means you can place pots and pans side by side, and when water flows through a pipe on that line, it automatically gets purified at 100C. This is useful for rural areas where water is not potable, or for hospital systems.  The Cape Town orphanage is using the cooker to heat its water system.

The oven’s combination of timer and temperature controls enables users to set a required heat (low, medium or high) for their dish along with the time required.

The cooker is being piloted in various locations, including a Cape Town orphanage, a rural South African farming community, a low-income housing scheme and a German research lab.

In 2012, he received the South African/German prize ‘African-German Network of Excellence in Science’ for young scientists for his research.