New Biochar Stoves at the 2009 ETHOS Conference

| 2/20/2009 4:01:10 PM

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
  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
  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.

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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.

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.

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