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New Biochar Stoves at the 2009 ETHOS Conference

2/20/2009 4:01:10 PM

Tags: biochar, rocket stove

January 23 through 25, 2009, about 100 “stovers” gathered in Kirkland, Wash., for the annual ETHOS (Engineers in Technical and Humanitarian Opportunities of Service) conference devoted to meeting household energy needs in the developing world. Improved stove technology was only part of a program that included discussion of standards and testing, distribution and manufacturing, and the intricacies of carbon credit financing. The highlight of the conference occurred at the ceremonial “lighting of the stoves” on the concrete steps outside the conference hall under a light flurry of snow late on Sunday afternoon.

A variety of innovative designs were on display, but only two of the stoves were able to operate in a pyrolysis mode to produce charcoal. Paul Anderson, an independent stover who works with the Biomass Energy Foundation, demonstrated a TLUD (top-lit updraft gasifier) stove using natural draft that leaves a charcoal residue after cooking. The char can be saved by dumping it into a covered bucket or pot to stop combustion. Anderson has two versions, what he calls the “refugee” stove made of tin cans, and the “artisan” version that will be manufactured in India. Plans for constructing the stoves will be freely available soon on the bioenergy listserve.

biochar stove
  PHOTO BY KELPIE WILSON/INTERNATIONAL
  BIOCHAR INITIATIVE
  Paul Anderson's "artisan" top-lit updraft (TLUD) gasifer stove
  produces charcoal at the end of a cooking session that can be
  saved in a covered metal bucket or ceramic pot.

Biochar advocates at the conference were very intrigued with the Lucia stove invented by entrepreneur Nat Mulcahy of WorldStove. Mulcahy is an industrial designer who has thrown himself into the project of bringing a sophisticated, high performance biomass stove to mass markets worldwide. Contrary to the approach of many stove designers who search for designs that can be easily manufactured in poor countries, Mulcahy wondered what could be accomplished using advanced manufacturing technology. He found that metal injection molding allowed him to make a burner with a swirl pattern resulting in highly efficient combustion and heat transfer. When used with a fan, the stove can be operated in a pyrolysis mode that produces charcoal. You can see his pyrolysis demonstration at the WorldStove YouTube channel.

biochar stove - lucia
  PHOTO BY KELPIE WILSON/INTERNATIONAL BIOCHAR INITIATIVE
  Nat Mulcahy prepares to add fuel to his Lucia stove. The copper pot can be set on
  top of the stove to function as a space heater.

Mulcahy’s burner is made out of 28 recycled aluminum cans. An aluminum inlet plate and a cast-iron forge plate complete the list of special parts; the rest of the stove can be put together from sheet metal, common fasteners and fans recycled from computers. The parts can be shipped flat and assembled locally. WorldStove plans to start production at a factory in northern Italy in March. The stove has been certified in Europe as producing less than 66 ppm carbon monoxide, and WorldStove is pursuing licenses to manufacture a model that will work as a fireplace insert, along with another model that Mulcahy says will triple the heat output and halve the emissions of a standard pellet stove. He also announced that Finland wants to subsidize 1.5 million of his stoves for saunas with the objective of producing biochar.

The new Biolite stove by industrial designers Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond does not make char, but is interesting nonetheless. A lightweight backpacking stove, its key innovation is to incorporate a bismuth-telluride thermoelectric generator (TEG) to operate a forced-air draft fan for this gasifier stove. The TEG is a nice innovation that could be applied to biochar producing stoves that use fans, eliminating the need for any external power supply.

biolite stove
  PHOTO BY KELPIE WILSON/INTERNATIONAL BIOCHAR INITIATIVE
  Prototypes of the Biolite backpacking stove designed by Jonathan Cedar and
  Alec Drummond. The fan is powered by an integrated thermoelectric generator.

Aside from exciting new technology, the Ethos conference offered many sessions concerned with the problems of stove dissemination. More than 1.5 billion people still cook over open fires. Impacts to health, safety, forests, air and climate could be mitigated with better stoves, but lack of funding for stove programs is a huge barrier. Carbon credit financing can help.

Two groups shared information on ways to obtain carbon credit financing. Stuart Conway of Trees, Water and People explained the process his group went through to offer a direct voluntary offset for its programs. The Center for Entrepreneurship in International Health and Development (CEIHD) is available to help groups set up projects for carbon credits. Adding biochar production to a stove program can potentially increase the amount of carbon offset achievable, and internationally there is a growing interest in biochar-producing stoves.

In December 2008, at the climate meeting in Poland, The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) held a side event on stoves that was very well attended. See the description of this event on IBI’s Poznan page.

Standards and testing are topics that are also of concern to biochar producers. Aprovecho Research Center had a large presence at the conference and stove designers will want to take a look at all the resources they offer. Laboratory manager Nordica MacCarty had Aprovecho’s mobile emissions testing unit on display. The unit packs up into one large suitcase that can be taken into the field. MacCarty has done testing in India and is off to Africa next. Aprovecho also does emissions testing at their lab in Cottage Grove, Ore.

Many interesting discussions took place in the hallways and at meals. A small group of biochar enthusiasts discussed ideas for helping less fortunate people generate income by producing biochar. Other discussions heard at the Ethos Conference repeated this theme of providing income-generating solutions. The practical aspects of integrating appropriate technology into people’s lives emerged as perhaps the greatest challenge, whether in the developing or already developed worlds.



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Post a comment below.

 

newbiocharland
1/28/2011 2:23:18 PM
You want to know all the secrets about biochar ? This book will help ! http://www.biochar-books.com Here practice and theory merge under a single cover of "The Biochar Revolution" and reveals hidden secrets of science called Biochar

sherryl-annette snyder
9/16/2009 9:21:07 AM
I have an exercize stepper with a fan housing. I was wondering how to use this energy to get eletricty.

Josie_2
8/28/2009 1:16:40 PM
My Mother used to make charcoal after our acacia & ipil-ipil trees are pruned. They were made in a hole in the ground where she made a bonfire & covered the whole thing w/ soil to keep oxygen out. Otherwise, she told me, the wood will be ashes instead of charcoal. I have forgotten the details since I was a preteen then & wasn't really paying attention. I would like to try that in the future when I visit the old homestead. I wouldn't try that here in CA before of the fire hazard.

jonathan_5
5/12/2009 8:53:40 AM
This is very good developments,really meeting the challenges of a common man.thank you

Alan Page
3/22/2009 3:47:48 PM
These technologies are extremely simple and recover heat very efficiently. Biochar production is part of the only simple /sustainable carbon negative energy system that is both possible immediately and necessary for remediation of our climate excesses. Production of of charcoal with out recovery of the 50% of the embodied energy that can not be retained within the charcoal is wasteful of this renewable energy source and damaging to local air quality and the environment. The use of biochar has been documented many times bioenergy lists is one extensive source of information. J. Lehmann has just published a second book the first "Amazonian Dark Earths" describes the source of much enthusiasm for this very necessary opportunity for realignment of human priorities.

Marble Host
3/17/2009 12:11:56 AM
The initial funding covered much of the installation and first year of operation. However, Josh has realized that to continue a viable operation, he needs to have a structure to store and dry the chicken litter. Wet litter significantly slowed the process and was less efficient. Josh has received additional grant funding through MicroUnity to build a storage area. This storage unit should be completed in time for the 2008 fall/winter heating season.http://www.marblehost.com

Edward J Peters
3/13/2009 7:16:35 PM
I recently saw my first piece on bio-charr in a copy of the Financial Times.Cover story material in the Financial Times and quite an amazing story in these interesting times.I do very much hope to learn all I can about this undoubtedly very old yet very up and coming product.It is in fact something that I hope becomes a lifework for me ,with this said I welcome all who wish to join me ejmpetersinc@yahoo.com

J_R_S
3/12/2009 3:03:45 PM
Hmmm... applying higher and higher tech to what is essentially an ancient, low-tech thing. Is it really necessary in this case or just more "gee whiz" over-enthusiasm? I still think a cheap barbeque grill from the local big lot store would do the job of creating small amounts of biochar effectively. Of course, those with the available ground to do it the old-fashioned way can not only produce more, but I'm sure the charring process serves to temporarily sterilize the soil around the preparation site, controlling fungus, disease and bugs in emerging crops that are planted over the spot where the biochar was made -- an important benefit of the original process which none of the "do it out of the ground" techniques provide.







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