Good Thinking

Cleaner-burning cookstove creates its own flame-fanning electricity

Cleaner-burning cookstove crea...
RTI's stove could be a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoky cooking fires like this one
RTI's stove could be a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoky cooking fires like this one
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RTI's prototype thermoelectric cooking stove
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RTI's prototype thermoelectric cooking stove
RTI's stove could be a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoky cooking fires like this one
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RTI's stove could be a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoky cooking fires like this one

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.

RTI's prototype thermoelectric cooking stove
RTI's prototype thermoelectric cooking stove

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.

Source: RTI International

3 comments
Misti Pickles
Idiocy! If the target audience is so deeply in poverty that they can't afford a Colman type stove (made in India cheaply right now) what makes the developers think that they will be able to afford one of these, when fanning the flames with a leaf is so much cheaper. And WTF is the U.S. Government FUNDING this for? Most of our poor don't use firewood to cook with. Even our homeless tend to use soup kitchens. What a waste time of tax dollars!
W8post
Why did the 'researchers' go all the way to India? They could have tried Chiapas and/or Oaxaca in Mexico. Or was that too close to waste their Government funded money? The International Red Cross constructed 'chimneys' (read: galvanised pipes) over their 'fogatas' (see first pic.) to get SOME relief for their respiratory problems. Which worked. As mentioned before, HOW do the developers think these people, who can't even afford the matches to light their fires [they light fires by friction of the wood], are able to buy these stoves? The Government should donate these stoves in a program for third world development.
Don Duncan
Am I missing something? Did I just read that my tax money went to fund a project that re-invented the Biolite stove? I want to know how much $ was wasted. I'm betting the money could have put a Biolite in every hut.