Solar Power Without Panels: 8 Smart Sun-Based Gadgets


The phrase ‘solar power’ immediately brings photovoltaic panels to mind, but the power of the sun can be harnessed in all sorts of creative ways. These 8 gadgets, ranging from a hand-held engraving device to a standalone power station that looks like a crystal ball, focus the rays of the sun to either reflect them, use them like lasers or gather their heat.

GoSun Stove

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Essentially a highly portable sun-powered oven, the GoSun Stove absorbs heat to reach temperatures of up to 554 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking everything from hot dogs and fish fillets to muffins and stir-fries. The concept was inspired by roof-mounted solar hot water heating systems, which use tube technology to reach high temperatures using nothing but the sun. You just load food into the cylinder, place it inside the solar-collecting chamber and wait anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on what you’re preparing.

Solar Grill

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Using the same technology that allows kids to cruelly fry ants to death on sidewalks with magnifying glasses, the SunPlace solar grill consists of a black grilling surface that you place on a table beneath a giant Fresnel lens. The lens magnifies sunlight onto the cast iron surface of the grill to heat it up, as well as cooking the food directly from above. There’s a major catch, though: This thing can easily burn you or the surface you’re cooking on, not to mention damage your eyesight. The creators even recommend wearing gloves and special glasses.

Pure Sunlight Table


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Increase ambient light within interior spaces with the Pure Sunlight table, which reflects natural sunlight onto the ceiling or walls. The internal mirror beneath the glass tabletop can be adjusted to get the best angle, capturing light and casting it wherever you like. The height of the tabletop prevents objects placed upon it from interfering with the reflection. 

Mini Sunflower Heliostat

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On a slightly larger scale than the Pure Sunlight table but smaller than conventional heliostats, the Sunflower by Wikoda was designed to gather sunlight outdoors and cast it onto the surface of your choice, which could be a window to direct more light indoors or a sidewalk to melt ice without chemicals. Other usage ideas include drying laundry or damp piles of wood. It’s marketed as the world’s only heliostat designed and priced for home use. A (solar-powered, natch) microprocessor tracks the sun and automatically adjusts the ‘petals’ for optimal positioning throughout the day. 

Sunlight Engraving Device

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Like a wood-burning pen without the need for a power outlet, the Febo focuses the sun’s energy onto a wooden surface. You don’t have quite the same level of creative control here, however: the concentrated sunlight is used in concert with a series of stencils to get a recognizable design rather than just a regular old burn mark. 

Sculptural High-Rise Heliostat

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Larger than the residential Sunflower but still smaller than most, this heliostat is built onto the side of a highly unusual sustainable skyscraper by Jean Novel and landscape artist Patrick Blanc. Sky at One Central Park in Sydney, Australia features the world’s tallest living wall and lots more lush greenery in addition to a cantilevered platform that functions as a sky garden on one side and a giant heliostat on the other. The mirrors reflect sunlight away from the building to generate solar energy for heating and light. At night, it’s illuminated to become a sculptural attraction.

3D Printer Using Focused Solar Rays

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The Solar Sinter is a 3D printing machine that focuses rays of sunlight through a glass sphere with enough intensity to heat sand to its melting point, creating a range of glass objects. Solar-powered motors move a box of sand along x and y axises, passing it beneath the focused sunlight in certain patterns. A new layer of sand is sprinkled on top after each pass. The object is then allowed to cool in the box before it’s removed. 

Spherical Glass Standalone Power Station


This powerful spherical glass solar energy generator by German architect Andre Broessel uses a ball lens and geometric structure to gather 35% more solar power than existing photovoltaic panels. Described as a stand-alone power station, the generator could theoretically be incorporated into any building surface. Even on cloudy days, it produces 4 times more energy than a conventional photovoltaic system.