British rocket scientist says he's designed a better saucepan

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
New saucepan is said to heat up more quickly, use 40% less energy

Cooking isn’t rocket science, but maybe designing cookware is. A professor of engineering at Oxford University has designed a new saucepan that he says heats up faster and uses 40% less energy than conventional saucepans.

The “Flare Pan”, designed by Thomas Povey, is being manufactured and sold by Lakeland, a British kitchenware chain. It was introduced for sale Wednesday, but so far it seems to be available only in Britain, though it can be ordered through Lakeland’s website, with prices starting at about $85. Delivery won't begin until Aug. 25.

Povey specializes in the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet engines. He is also an avid mountaineer and says that this invention was spurred by the long time it takes for water to reach a boil at high altitudes. He and a group of his students worked three years experimenting with different designs before they came up with one being marketed.

Made from cast aluminum and sporting a series of “fins” around the bottom of the pan, the Flare Pan “channels heat from the flame across the bottom and up the sides of the pan, resulting in highly efficient, even heat distribution,” according to a release from Isis Innovation, which licenses technology developed at Oxford.

“This means the pans heat up significantly more quickly and food cooks faster, saving time and using much less energy too.”

Povey says it’s all a simple matter of thermodynamics.  “The problem with the current shape of the pan means a lot of the heat is dissipated into the air,” Povey told the Telegraph newspaper in Britain.

"So, it is an aerodynamic and heat-transfer problem, and we applied the science used in rocket and jet engines to create a shape of a pan that is more energy efficient.

"So, it is a very similar problem but it certainly is a different product than what we're used to working on."

Already the new design has won the 2014 Hawley Award from the Worshipful Company of Engineers, a British professional group, for "the most outstanding engineering innovation that delivers demonstrable benefit to the environment." The 2013 award went to Caroline Hepburn for her work on “online measurement of siloxanes by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy: A new tool for enhancing engine protection during energy production from biogas.”

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter: @russ_parsons1

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times