Outdoors

BioLite low-emission camping stove creates its own electricity

The power pack packs clips easily to the exterior when removed to create a cook stove that is 7.5 inches tall by 4.75 inches diameter, and weighs only 1lb 10 ounces
The power pack packs clips easily to the exterior when removed to create a cook stove that is 7.5 inches tall by 4.75 inches diameter, and weighs only 1lb 10 ounces
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The power pack packs clips easily to the exterior when removed to create a cook stove that is 7.5 inches tall by 4.75 inches diameter, and weighs only 1lb 10 ounces
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The power pack packs clips easily to the exterior when removed to create a cook stove that is 7.5 inches tall by 4.75 inches diameter, and weighs only 1lb 10 ounces
BioLite could benefit a diverse array of people living without electricity - from hikers and hunters, to backpackers and festival-goers, and even people living in third world countries
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BioLite could benefit a diverse array of people living without electricity - from hikers and hunters, to backpackers and festival-goers, and even people living in third world countries
The BioLite stove is a collapsible wood-burning cook stove that uses almost any forest-found fuel powered by its own heat energy, with ultra-low emissions
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The BioLite stove is a collapsible wood-burning cook stove that uses almost any forest-found fuel powered by its own heat energy, with ultra-low emissions

Consider the humble camping stove. It requires fuel - perhaps some unwieldy bottle that air carriers object strongly to. Maybe it needs batteries to run a fan, or billows out smoke so you smell like smoked sweatshirt for the rest of the trip. The solution might be the BioLite stove - it's a collapsible wood-burning cook stove that uses almost any forest-found fuel and converts its own heat energy into electricity to achieve efficient combustion with ultra-low emissions.

Fuel

Since the BioLite will burn almost any biomass fuel; from wood, pine cones, leaves, pellets, rice husks, even dung, it means fuel need not be carried, unlike bottles for petroleum or gas burners that cannot be carried on airplanes and must be sourced at destination.

The Principal

The stove itself operates by utilizing the "woodgas" principal, whereby the thin gas layer that burns around a solid fuel is separated and added to oxygen to burn more efficiently. The BioLite power pack captures wasted heat energy from the fire and converts it to electricity via a thermoelectric generator (TEG). This is then used to power a fan which pushes oxygen into the chamber creating hotter, cleaner more efficient combustion.

The BioLite stove is a collapsible wood-burning cook stove that uses almost any forest-found fuel powered by its own heat energy, with ultra-low emissions
The BioLite stove is a collapsible wood-burning cook stove that uses almost any forest-found fuel powered by its own heat energy, with ultra-low emissions

Assembly

The power pack fits neatly inside the combustion chamber, and clips to the exterior when removed to create a cook stove that is 7.5 inches tall, 4.75 inches in diameter, and weighs 1lb 10 ounces. The fan should be switched on and the vent open to allow oxygen flow before the fire is started using whatever forest fuels are available. Dry leaves or starter material are placed near the heat pipe within the chamber which will collect heat and convert it to electricity to drive the fan. The oxygen added from the chamber pores gives a clean, hot flame with no smoke. The stove takes only a couple of minutes to get going and can boil one liter of water in four minutes, as rapidly as a jet boil or reactor flame. Despite this the stove exterior remains cool to the touch and well-insulated; it's therefore easy to add more fuel simply by lifting the pan and popping more in. The heat control switch lowers the speed of the fan, and this, or less fuel, will create a smaller flame for simmering.

When you wish to extinguish it you can either allow the fan to keep adding oxygen till all the fuel runs out, or by swilling the coals in any remaining cooking water and pouring into a small hole nearby. The fan will keep running to cool the stove and it takes only 5 minutes before you can pack the stove and get on the road again.

Benefits

There are no batteries, and no moving parts to break and since the TEG is made from solid state semiconductor elements, it should be good for more than twenty years of service. The addition of oxygen means wood consumption is reduced by half, smoke emissions are reduced by 95%, and black carbon is all but eliminated. As there is no dependency on fuel or power it is a great emergency preparedness tool, but could also benefit a diverse array of people living without electricity - from hikers and hunters, to backpackers and festival-goers, and people living in the developing world.

The future of BioLite

The designers behind BioLite have a patent pending and hope it will be available to purchase at an affordable price soon. BioLite have pledged to commit a portion of sales from the camp stoves to support clean wood burning projects in the developing world. PBS covered an India stove trial initiative that aims to cut the air pollution from traditional wood and dung stoves by distributing these cook stoves and monitoring the drop in air pollution and respiratory irritation in the next two years. Additionally the company is working with the Aprovecho Research Center, to develop the world’s first forced air rocket stove.BioLite won top prize in the Vodafone Innovation Project recently, as well as first prize for the design with the lowest emissions at the ETHOS conference, a gathering of government, NGO, manufacturer and inventors to discuss the design of wood stoves for the developing world market, where it was also the only entry requiring no additional electrical resource. Additionally it was presented at the United Nations during a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

You can watch a video demo at the BioLite site.

19 comments
gerald crofford
really injoy reading your publication
felix
A fan with no moving parts? That\'s clever!
windykites
If it produces no black carbon, then it must be producing CO2. Better to stick with the black carbon! Also, a cheaper idea: Why not fit a fan above the flames? The heat would turn this fan, which is connected to the fan underneath, which turns and blows oxygen into the fire. Rather like a miniature jet engine. I might try this myself!
windykites
I just went to the site, and they said it uses the waste heat. Why is it wasted? Also they said smoke is eliminated. See my previous comments. I\'ve just watched the video. It is really impressive.
Jesse Merriman
how do you buy this?
oldhacker
windykites1...oh, where to start? 1. Of course it produces CO2. It\'s a wood stove. All wood stoves produce CO2. As far as wood fuel goes, that makes it carbon neutral (trees use CO2 to grow more wood, you know). 2. A fan above driving a fan below smacks of perpetual motion. It can\'t produce more that it\'s driven by, therefore won\'t move nearly enough air to matter. (and that\'s assuming you solve the problems with the upper bearings working in over 1000degF heat) 3. All thermodynamic processes produces waste heat. None are 100% efficient. Any heat not transferred (in this case) directly to the food in the cooking pot/pan is considered waste. Every touch your kitchen stove burner after cooking? That\'s waste heat. 4. The acrid smoke contains everything bad you don\'t want around a cooking stove. It\'s a primary cause of premature death in third world countries who have to cook over an inefficient wood fire inside.
Ariel Dahan
J\'adorre ce fourneau. C\'est juste ce qu\'il me faut pour préparer mes futures balades familiales... I definitely like this stove. Where can I get one?
windykites
Oldhacker. Point 2 in your letter: it does not smack of perpetual motion. Did you see I mentioned a jet engine? That is how they work, only in this case it is upside down. You would not need bearings at the top. One set at the bottom would suffice. And think about it. Does the top of the stove melt? No of course not! You would also use this stove outside your tent, not inside. I am aware of carbon neutral wood, but soot is preferable to CO2. That is called carbon capture
Glenn Arne
windykites1: putting a turbine in the middle of the fire, in the manner you suggest (while it would probably work ok, the energy coming from the burning wood obviously), will likely disrupt combustion and will definitely disperse heat away from the center of the fire, meaning a less efficient stove. Regarding \"carbon capture\", your first of all not capturing a meaningful amount of carbon (the soot is a very small percentage of the original wood) and it\'s a moot point anyway since burning wood is part of a relatively quick and stable carbon cycle where the carbon is easily handled by our natural enviroment, unlike fossil fuels.
oldhacker
windykites1: Sorry I didn\'t explain that point more clearly or in detail. For the fan to be effective, it needs to move a lot of air...In other words the fan needs to be spinning in the upper hundreds to mid thousands of revolutions per minute. I\'ve seen many Finish and Norwegian Christmas toys built as large/multiple candle driven heat engines, very similar to what you have described. They typically turn a fan only 10 to 15 revs a minute. I feel that model more accurately predicts the potential performance of the fan you describe than a jet engine. (You could have also mentioned an automobile turbo charger...probably a more accessible \'model\'.) I have to stick by my comments about the \'over 1000degF\' heat, though. The top of the stove is not exposed to the center of combustion and is probably seeing much less than 600degF. Unless you\'re using exotic alloys, or ceramics, placing thin metal in the center of combustion or even 2\" above will more that likely bring it to it\'s melting point. But, I\'ll certainly admit I could be wrong about the fan. It\'s just a gut feeling based on several decades of mechanical engineering design projects. Tell you what...if you build one that works and market it, I\'ll be the first guy in line to buy one from you! Slightly different subject or \'When soot is not preferable to CO2\'; The stove technology used here is common among designs targeted towards solving serious problems faced today in 3rd world countries. Typically, poorly vented indoor wood fires are used for preparing every meal as well as a heat source. The point of these new designs of stoves (Google \'rocket stove\') is to eliminate the (combustible) wood smoke in order to 1. Burn the fuel source much, much more efficiently, thus reducing deforestation, and 2. Lower the death rates due to the almost constant exposure to the toxic wood smoke. Although the primary point of these newer designs has nothing to do with CO2 reduction, by burning half as much fuel, you are also cutting your CO2 production in half. That\'s 50%. Think about it. That\'s infinitely better than using 2 or 3 times as much fuel/CO2 in order to capture a thin layer of soot on the bottom of a pan. And reducing the amount of wood used each day also means more live trees left standing to deal with the CO2. Thanks for responding.
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