At a popular fête in the Tuileries Gardens I was struck with an experiment which seems deserving of the immediate attention of the English public and military authorities.
Among the attractions of the fête was an apparatus for the concentration and utilization of solar heat, and, though the sun was not very brilliant, I saw this apparatus set in motion a printing machine which printed several thousand copies of a specimen newspaper entitled the Soleil Journal.
The sun's rays are concentrated in a reflector, which moves at the same rate as the sun and heats a vertical boiler, setting the motive steam-engine at work. As may be supposed, the only object was to demonstrate the possibility of utilizing the concentrated heat of the solar rays; but I closely examined it, because the apparatus seems capable of great utility in existing circumstances. Here in France, indeed, there is a radical drawback--the sun is often overclouded.
Thousands of years ago the idea of utilizing the solar rays must have suggested itself, and there are still savage tribes who know no other mode of combustion; but the scientific application has hitherto been lacking. This void this apparatus will fill up. About fifteen years ago Professor Mouchon, of Tours, began constructing such an apparatus, and his experiments have been continued by M. Pifre, who has devoted much labor and expense to realizing M. Mouchou's idea. A company has now come to his aid, and has constructed a number of apparatus of different sizes at a factory which might speedily turn out a large number of them. It is evident that in a country of uninterrupted sunshine the boiler might be heated in thirty or forty minutes. A portable apparatus could boil two and one-half quarts an hour, or, say, four gallons a day, thus supplying by distillation or ebullition six or eight men. The apparatus can be easily carried on a man's back, and on condition of water, even of the worst quality, being obtainable, good drinking and cooking water is insured. M. De Rougaumond, a young scientific writer, has just published an interesting volume on the invention.
I was able yesterday to verify his statements, for I saw cider made, a pump set in motion, and coffee made--in short, the calorific action of the sun superseding that of fuel. The apparatus, no doubt, has not yet reached perfection, but as it is it would enable the soldier in India or Egypt to procure in the field good water and to cook his food rapidly. The invention is of especial importance to England just now, but even when the Egyptian question is settled the Indian troops might find it of inestimable value.
Red tape should for once be disregarded, and a competent commission forthwith sent to 30 Rue d'Assas, with instructions to report immediately, for every minute saved may avoid suffering for Englishmen fighting abroad for their country. I may, of course, be mistaken, but a commission would decide, and if the apparatus is good the slightest delay in its adoption would be deplorable.--Paris Correspondence London Times.