Cleaner-burning cookstove creates its own flame-fanning electricity

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RTI's stove could be a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoky cooking fires like this one(Credit: Shutterstock)

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While many of us may enjoy grilling food over an open fire, the fact is that cooking fires are a major source of health problems for millions of people in developing nations, who use them on a daily basis. The main problem is the smoke, which causes respiratory problems – not to mention air pollution. In an effort to address the problem, research group RTI International has developed a cook stove that burns cleaner … and that powers gadgets.

Like the commercially-available BioLite camp stove, the side-feed stove utilizes a thermoelectric generator to convert heat from the burning wood into electricity. That voltage in turn powers a built-in fan, which blows air into the stove’s combustion chamber – the stove is literally fanning its own flames.

As a result, the fire burns more efficiently, creating less smoke and also requiring less wood for the same amount of heat. As an added benefit, electricity not used by the fan can be used to charge phones or power lights.

Field testing of the stove has already been carried out in Aurangabad, India, and was completed this June. RTI is now conducting durability testing along with market research, and hopes to have the stove commercially available within 18 months.

Along with the complete stove, a separate thermoelectric generator/fan may also be manufactured for use with existing stoves.

The project is being funded by the US Department of Energy.

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