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Earth Technology

Engineers Aim To Make Cleaner-Burning Cookstoves For Developing World 147

Posted by samzenpus
from the home-cooking dept.
vinces99 writes in with news about a new cookstove design for developing countries. "About 3 billion people, or 42 percent of the world's population, rely on burning materials such as wood, animal dung or coal in stoves for cooking and heating their homes. Often these stoves are crudely designed, and poor ventilation and damp wood can create a smoky, hazardous indoor environment day after day. A recent study in The Lancet estimates that 3.5 million people die each year as a result of indoor air pollution from open fires or rudimentary stoves in their homes. More than 900,000 people die from pneumonia alone, which has been linked to indoor air pollution. University of Washington engineers hope to make a dent in these numbers by designing a cookstove that meets a stringent set of emission and efficiency standards while still being affordable and attractive to families who cook over a flame each day. The team has received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to design a better cookstove, which researchers say will use half as much fuel and cut emissions by 90 percent."
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Engineers Aim To Make Cleaner-Burning Cookstoves For Developing World

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  • And fire places, people have been successfully using them for hundreds of years without killing themselves. Lets face it people, if your burning bullshit in a 50 gallon drum to cook your food "yet another better stove" isnt going to do you much good.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @12:06PM (#44856781) Journal
      Here's a picture of the traditional stove. [washington.edu] Truly inefficient, you can see plenty of wasted energy leaving out the sides. ok.
      Here's a picture of the new stove they are considering. [washington.edu]

      The new one does look more efficient, but it looks like it costs 10 times more. Are people really going to buy it?
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        nonsense, there are "traditional stoves" that look just like your 2nd picture. Designed by smart people who had a culture where they could pass good ideas along.

        • Pics or it didn't happen
          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Yeah that's not exactly hard. This entire thing is a waste of effort in terms of "making a better stove." Feel free to look up a daruma stove, or even the semi-classical pot-belly or mini-pot belly stove. The fun thing about pot belly stoves is they can be made from any material that doesn't burn. Of course the most common type was cast iron(iron of course being cheap during that time), but pure clay, and clay mixed with other materials such as asbestos was also common.

        • I'll bet they don't levitate, like the ones in the 'picture'.

          Now that's tech.

        • Its the whitemans burden. Teaching the barbaric natives how to cook their food. Then its knock-knock-whosthere-freedom! time.
        • by roc97007 (608802)

          nonsense, there are "traditional stoves" that look just like your 2nd picture. Designed by smart people who had a culture where they could pass good ideas along.

          Wait. According to TFA, the first stove is an example of what the target audience is currently using, and the second is an artist's conception of what the new stove will look like. One of the design criteria is to look enough like the stoves they were used to that they would be mostly familiar with it's use, while being a significant improvement over what they were currently using. [1]

          So, a Franklin stove (as others were suggesting) may not have as high adoption as something that looks like their current

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Here's a picture of the traditional stove. [washington.edu] Truly inefficient, you can see plenty of wasted energy leaving out the sides. ok.

        Here's a picture of the new stove they are considering. [washington.edu]

        The new one does look more efficient, but it looks like it costs 10 times more. Are people really going to buy it?

        Ten times more? The first one looks free. Honestly this looks like yet another ivory tower project complete with a budget, interns, and computer aided engineering all to 'invent' something that has been around for ages.

        This time it is the free-from-trash Hobo stove. [wikipedia.org] I'll research the idea for half price, only 450k. Hell, I'll even send the Department of Energy a few samples, just let me find my old coffee cans....

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Just because the rendering looks good doesn't mean that's what will end up in the developing world.
        And at its most basic, that design can be stamped out, wholesale, from sheet metal.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        I think any design like this that relies on people *buying* it is ultimately going to fail. If you really wanted to improve these people's lives, you would design one that *they* can *make*.

        • I think any design like this that relies on people *buying* it is ultimately going to fail.

          I keep seeing people posting this kind of thing. Do you really think that people in developing countries have no money?

          I can tell you a story. I knew a woman in El Salvador who was a cook, and she bought a pot that was big enough to make mondongo (cow stomach soup). She was really happy. Then somehow she lost it, and she was really sad. If she could have bought another one, she would have been really happy again.

          So this sort of stove thing is the kind of thing people would buy if it were cheap enough,

    • by westlake (615356)

      And fire places, people have been successfully using them for hundreds of years without killing themselves.

      It happened quite often.

      Try thinking a little more carefully about the clothes women wore.

      • by Chemisor (97276)

        > Try thinking a little more carefully about the clothes women wore.

        When you are wearing a long dress near a fire, you can't help but try thinking a little more carefully.

    • by 32771 (906153) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @12:31PM (#44856957) Journal

      Actually TLUD stoves would create char coal and burn the pyrolysis gases, now they are just wasted. The article is low on detail, here is a free ebook about stoves and their use in 3rd world countries:

      http://www.biochar-international.org/sites/default/files/Understanding-Stoves-okt-10-webversion.pdf [biochar-in...tional.org]

      and a slide show that explains the principle:

      http://www.bme.gouv.ht/ugse/TCharbon%20Kara%20Grant%20-%20English.pdf [bme.gouv.ht]

      I haven't seen this mentioned in the article which is somewhat thin on detail, but there is way more to stoves than the article explains. Also Burn Design Lab doesn't explicitly mention the TLUD design.

      Oh, here is another website:

      http://stoves.bioenergylists.org/ [bioenergylists.org]

      Somehow the UW related stuff is free of the TLUD principle, I wonder why. Also, you are wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's called rocket stove and can be built easily from different material:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_stove

  • Similar project (Score:3, Informative)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @12:25PM (#44856907)

    This reminds me of this project: Potential Energy (formerly The Darfur Stoves Project) [potentialenergy.org]

    Popular Mechanics covered it in this article: Low-Tech Stove Saves Lives in Sudan's Darfur Region [popularmechanics.com]

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @12:27PM (#44856921) Homepage

    Rocket stoves work pretty good. They burn at a higher temperature and consume more of the fuel while reducing emissions. Very easy to construct and cheap to fuel with just sticks and leaves.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Rocket stoves (Score:3)
      by CODiNE (27417)
      Rocket stoves work pretty good.

      That's probably better than my subject line. Mine was going to be "holy shit, assholes". Then the body was going to say "These already exist, and they are called rocket stoves." Possibly I might include an informative link [wikipedia.org].

    • I'd mod you up if I had points to give. Rocket stoves and rocket mass heaters are the most promising developments in clean, high efficiency and low-cost heating.

  • Maybe they just need to provide pressure cookers to everyone? See this article with a rudimentary table comparing cooking time: http://missvickie.com/library/investment.html [missvickie.com]
  • Run it hot on clean, dry wood at full power for as long as you can, the thermal mass you surround it with will absorb the heat.

    Oh wait, the reason folks burn crappy wet wood in inefficient stoves is that they're poor, or they're too sick from dirty water (50% of all premature deaths on Earth are from bad water) to gather wood. How does this help that problem?

  • So these guys, but 3 years late to the party?

    http://www.cleancookstoves.org/ [cleancookstoves.org]

    I guess mechanical and chemical engineering masters students all need a thesis subject...

    • by swillden (191260)

      Or there's also the higher-tech approach taken by BioLite [biolitestove.com]. While obviously more expensive, that stove not only improves efficiency and health, but also provides electrical power generation capabilities suitable for charging smartphones and other low-energy electronic devices. Given how transformative cellphones are proving to be in developing economies, that's a non-trivial benefit.

  • by khb (266593) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @03:41PM (#44857949)

    http://www.biolitestove.com/homestove/overview/ [biolitestove.com] for the "homestove" which is intended for folks who need it "full time". Yes, it is more expensive, but they are working on funding sources.

    One of the funding sources is us outdoor geeks, on their website you can find the campstove, the campgrill and the upcoming pot. Some of their profits go towards their homestove work.

    I've got the campstove, it does a very nice job. Perhaps by next summer I'll invest in the grill.

    • by khb (266593)

      Reading some of the other citations (cooking stove treatise, etc.) it seems that lessons from the 5th century haven't propagated yet.

      http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/following-the-trail-of-tumuli/rebellion-in-kyushu-and-the-rise-of-royal-estates/village-settlement-patterns-the-homestead-emerges/the-kamado-stove-innovation-improves-home-life/ [wordpress.com]

      The key benefits of using "high" technology are cleaner burning and electricity generation for upfront investment (which presumably is being donated).

      The southern ja

      • by khb (266593)

        I suppose the other clever (but non-electrical) approach would be to use a turbo charger. Pumping some of the exhaust gas back in and using it's thermal and kinetic energy to power the blower would do away with the need for a battery or external fan.

        But when the basis against which solutions are compared against is three rocks under the cookpot it is hard to compete on the basis of simplicity.

    • by advid.net (595837)

      Biolite team has done extensive field test for their homestove, it really works (and rocks) for those people who do the daily cooking with wood stove.
      And they use it to charge their cell phones and home light batteries, while saving on wood.

      I use the summer camp smaller "geek" version of this stove, I'm happy with it even if it has some limitations the home version hasn't.

  • This is silly. Even if you were able to mass produce this item and give it away for free it would still be the most expensive item these people own and a target of thieves. There's currently a project on Kickstarter for a solar oven that has pretty much the same goals. It costs $300, the main component is a glass tube, and it's completely worthless. It has raised $80,000.

    This design is nothing but a rocket stove which can be made from a variety of found components by someone with minimal tools and kn
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @04:24PM (#44858171)

    ...but isn't man's disruption of the natural processes that keep the population in check a direct contributor to the world overpopulation problem? From a strictly scientific point of view, drastically altering the mortality rate of the world's population by decreasing it (and increasing the birth/death ration) can't be a good thing. Many of these people have lived generations in their current environment, so why does a first world country believe they have the right to disrupt nature in such a drastic way?

    So a first world country solves the woodstove problem, thereby decreasing mortality rates. Are they prepared to then step in and deal with inadequate water supplies, increases in loss of arable lands, higher rates of infant mortality, and other side effects of overpopulation?

    • ...but isn't man's disruption of the natural processes that keep the population in check a direct contributor to the world overpopulation problem?

      No, On the contrary, population is increasing rapidly in Africa now, and is stable or dropping in all Western countries. Without exception, economic development has led to women's education which has led to near-replacement or below-replacement birthrates. Improving Africans' health will lead to a small temporary gain in population, and a much larger drop later on. The longer you wait for economic development, the larger the population and environmental impact will be later on.

      Many of these people have lived generations in their current environment, so why does a first world country believe they have the right to disrupt nature in such a drastic way?

      These people are not "nature".

  • My suggestion would be some form of multi-fuel gasification system. Its highly efficient and produces very low emissions. The problem would be simplifying its operation, making it smaller & engineering it so that it didn't require electricity (for the blower).

  • This is not really totally new news! Another effort to develop a cheap (approx. 8 Euro) useful cooking stove with a chimney is described here: http://ofenmacher.org/index.php?sfwi=201&sflng=1&sfcr=&sfci=103651 [ofenmacher.org] by the German non-profit group 'Die Ofenmacher'. The stove avoids injuries and respiratory problems, while reducing the amount of wood needed. It also provides an employment opportunity for local stove makers!
  • Bloody university PR departments presenting every research project as if it's some Eureka moment.

    "For over a decade, cookstove experts and enthusiasts have gathered at Aprovecho [Research Center] [aprovecho.org]". In 2009 The New Yorker had a long article [newyorker.com] about stove enthusiasts designing better stoves, what's changed since then? The Chinese are already cranking out Rocket stoves in volume; other commenters have linked to www.cleancookstoves.org, Biolite, etc.. The problem isn't engineering, it's economics and cultural.

    Meanwhile, any stove still requires spending hours collecting firewood, contributing to deforestation and CO2 emissions. As an adjunct people can put food in a black pot in an insulated container heated by a cheap solar reflector. But now you've got two $20 purchases per family, one of which only works part of the time. Meanwhile the U.N. spends millions trucking fuel into refugee camps. Again, the problems are NOT engineering ones.

  • This should be about making a CHEAP, nearly fail-safe, anaerobic digester, that will take human and animal waste and create methane. It needs to allow easy run-time loading, rather than batch loading. With such an approach, it solves multiple issues.
  • In the third world?
    Are those significantly cheaper than the ones they had before?

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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