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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.


Solar Energy and A Business Model


Doug Schuler, PI, Associate Professor, Rice University
Jean Boubour, PI, Inventor
Pauline Rosenau, PI, Professor, University of Texas School of Public Health


 Doug Schuler-Soleil 
Dr. Douglas Schuler
 Jean Bubour-Soleil 
Mr. Jean Boubour
 Dr. Pauline Rosenau
Project Background

Apply a sustainable solar energy technology into underserved communities to assess potential adoption and use in places where energy has been unabundant or infrequently available. The technology is a solar capture device, called the “capteur soleil”, which converts solar energy into steam. In rural areas of developing countries, our target setting, there are several promising applications for the steam, including cooking (often to replace cooking with wood), sterilization of medical instruments for health clinics (often to replace soap and water or chemicals), and water purification.

Unlike most existing solar devices, the capteur uses inexpensive and commonly available materials such as aluminum and steel. The device is relatively simple to build and use so that experts are not required for its installation and maintenance. Detailed documentation and photos of the capteur soleil can be found at: www.soleil-vapeur.org

Our project has two phases. The first is to identify opportunities for the capteur to be a sustainable energy device for people who currently have no or limited access to energy. We are currently in discussion with several organizations in developing countries that have needs for institutional cooking (schools) and rural health services.

The second phase is to create a social enterprise business model to secure the use of the capteur beyond its installation. The social enterprise business model becomes a central outcome of this project which should be transferable to other areas of social need in developing countries. For this phase, we will collect data on the performance of the capteur as we install it at the various sites. We will also assess competing and complementary technologies, and economic, social, and political information relevant to building a social enterprise business model for the capteur.

CapteurThe  solar capture device.

Detailed documentation and more photos of the capteur soleil can be found at:


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