Pot improvement

Materials World magazine
1 Nov 2017

Material selection is key to more efficient heating of pots and pans, argues Dr Jennifer Unsworth of intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers.

Having a great idea is one thing, but in order to translate an inventive concept into a successful working product, it is necessary to select the right materials.

In this case, appropriate selection has enabled an American inventor, Daniel J Repetti, to find a solution to the age-old problem of inefficient heating of cooking apparatus. 

Energy conservation is a major focus for developing nations and global superpowers alike, and remains one of the key challenges modern civilisations face. Cooking is a field in which energy usage is high. 

Still in use today, conventional cooking techniques, such as stove-tops, are particularly inefficient since a significant amount of the heat generated travels up the sides of the cooking vessel and then escapes into the atmosphere. This means that very little of the heat generated by the stove-top is actually transmitted directly to the pot, which wastes vital resources such as gas or electricity.

Daniel J Repetti was granted a UK patent on 20 September 2017 (GB2482843). The patent relates to a skirt-like device, which can be retrofitted to ordinary pots and pans to reduce atmospheric heat loss.

The skirt (110) is illustrated in the above figure, and once fitted to a cooking vessel, it allows heat that travels up the sides (120) to be redirected. The contours of the skirt are designed to re-circulate the redirected heat (121) around the sidewalls of the cooking vessel, thereby transmitting heat to the lower portion of it, which would have otherwise been lost to the atmosphere. 

The advantages that this invention provides are two-fold. Since the cooking vessel is exposed to a greater amount of heat overall, the invention allows stove-top pots and pans to be heated more quickly. 

In addition, the device can be used to achieve comparable levels of heating at lower stove-top temperatures, thereby helping to minimise energy consumption.

In order to make use of this concept within a working product, Repetti realised that the device would require a material that exhibits resistance to warping, high-thermal conductance and a high melting-point. It would also need to be durable and relatively lightweight, ensuring suitability for domestic use. 

For example, choosing a material with poor resistance to warping could have led to the skirt becoming loose and detaching from the cooking vessel during use.

Even though the application of metal alloys in cooking products is well established, it was still necessary to include this information within the patent application to describe the invention in such a way that it could be reproduced by a skilled reader, which is a key requirement for obtaining patent protection. 

The patent demonstrates how careful material selection can solve everyday problems and deliver important environmental benefits, too.

To view the patent, visit bit.ly/2hRQvFL (PDF)