Providing Clean Fuel for the Developing World: Technology Is Not Enough (2019-2020)

Background

The indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels causes approximately four million premature deaths annually, making it the leading cause of human death after high blood pressure and tobacco smoking. Cleaner fuel sources can improve health while preserving forests, improving local air quality and mitigating impacts on climate change.

Unfortunately, the adoption of electric and natural gas stoves has proven challenging due to issues related to stove and fuel cost, the lack of a robust supply chain, existing cultural practices, development of a geographically and culturally appropriate marketing and promotion plan as well as gaining the trust and credibility of local leaders and institutions.

The increased penetration of solar power into the developing world is providing people with carbon-free electricity to use pollution-free electric stoves, the most preferred alternative stove technology. However, without a reliable electricity source or an expensive battery to store solar power, households must still rely on traditional solid fuel stoves for cooking and heating at night. In addition, many simple solar home systems do not provide enough power to run an electric stove.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project will introduce students to the challenges involved in developing, translating and promoting new technologies to address global problems, and will thereby involve aspects of basic science, engineering, economics, sociology and psychology. The team will develop an alkaline water electrolyzer and hydrogen storage system that can provide fuel for cooking and heating at a lower cost than using electricity from an electrochemical battery (e.g., lithium ion or lead acid) and eliminates the need for a supply chain.

In addition to giving students the opportunity to develop a new technology, an equally important goal of the project is to instill in students from STEM disciplines the understanding that technology alone is rarely sufficient to address global problems. Thus, team members will write a literature review on the various studies and programs that have been undertaken to introduce new cookstove technology, in order to gain an understanding of the challenges and lessons learned. If the technology development stage of this project is successful, team members will use these lessons to design and run a field study of their technology in subsequent project years.

Anticipated Outputs

Safe and economical system for producing, storing and burning hydrogen; manuscript for publication; press release; literature review of cookstove interventions for publication; dataset for future analysis

Timing

Summer 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Summer 2019: Develop subgroup project plans; develop individual objectives and key results (OKRs); purchase supplies and test first prototype; evaluate team progress and modify project plan
  • Fall 2019: Evaluate first quarter OKRs; one-on-one evaluation meetings; complete draft of review article; continue prototype development and testing
  • Spring 2020: Evaluate second quarter OKRs; one-on-one evaluation meetings; finish prototype; write research publication; individual evaluations

 

 

Image: Fogarty NIH 50th symposium cookstoves, by Andrew Propp for Fogarty International Center/NIH, public domain

Fogarty NIH 50th symposium cookstoves.

Team Leaders

  • August Frechette, Pratt School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering-Ph.D. Student
  • Nico Hotz, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • Benjamin Wiley, Arts & Sciences-Chemistry
  • Feichen Yang, Trinity - Chemistry-Ph.D. Student

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Rebecca Melaku
  • Sarabesh Natarajan
  • Kamala Pullakhandam
  • Kennedy Sun

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Marc Jeuland, Sanford School of Public Policy