It's about to get that much easier to create a tempest in a teapot. Conventional wisdom holds that a watched pot never boils and while “never” might be an exaggeration, most of us can agree that it takes longer than we’d like. However, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered that by coating the inside of a pot with a microscopic layer of copper nanotubes—which under appropriate magnification make the surface of the cooking vessel look hairy—they can increase the efficiency of energy transfer from the pot to the water it holds by an order of magnitude.
In our imperfect world, where the burners of a range give off a huge proportion of their energy directly to the sorrounding air rather than to the cooking vessel they’re supposed to be heating, the microscopically hirsute pots save cooking time, costs, and energy. “If the time taken to boil a given quantity of water is reduced by an order of magnitude, that should translate into significant cost savings,” says Nikhil A. Koratkar, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at
While the findings are definitely interesting, and novel in the context of cookware, the principle involved is generally well-known: an increase in surface area corresponds to more efficient transfer from one medium to another. It’s the same strategy employed in our intestines, where millions of microscopic villi—hair-like structures—aid in the absorption of nutrients; and in radiators, where the fins promote the migration of heat from the coolant to the surrounding air. Our friends at Treehugger speculate that the material could be adapted to make solar thermal power plants harness heat by the light of the sun more effectively - a likely prospect considering the success seen with nanotechnology used with in "hairy" solar cells, or with "popcorn ball" dye-sensitized solar cells.
What does this mean in reality? Well, most of us define when the watched pot has boiled by that roiling appearance as bubbles are nucleated and rise to the surface, rather than by the temperature of the water. The copper "microfur" results in a 30-fold increase in the number of bubbles created as the water reaches 100oC. Not only does the water get hot faster, but we’re also more likely to start actually cooking with it sooner. And who in her right mind doesn’t want a greener version of pasta e fagioli?
written by Tuan, July 09, 2008
written by ausearth, July 09, 2008
written by Miguel, July 10, 2008
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written by Souptik Gupta, July 15, 2008
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