Smoky, dangerous, and wasteful, families throughout the developing world see the product of their labor go up in flames. Those households, the poorest and most vulnerable, spend countless hours collecting fuel for their cookstoves, a burden that disproportionately falls on the women and children.
It is in those lives that the nonprofit BURN Design Lab (BDL) hopes to make the biggest difference.
In 2013, BDL received a U.S. Department of Energy grant funding its goal to develop the superior wood-burning cookstove as part of a partnership including the UW’s Clean Cookstove Lab.
“In terms of what they’re replacing, many cookstoves are primitive, basically made by hand [out] of scraps of metal,” said Paul Means, executive director at BDL. “These stoves are made of high alloy metals, ceramic insulating material, and a powder coating.”
Thanks to the Clean Cookstove Lab’s technical research, BURN has been able to develop a superior stove.
“[The stoves we’re replacing] are not efficient, clean-burning, or as fast to cook with,” Means said. “We’re working to find efficiencies, keep emissions down, and make them durable to last a long time under harsh conditions.”
The stove is expected to reduce asthma- and heart disease-causing particulate pollution by 67 percent compared to the traditional open-flame methods that it replaces. It will do so while using less than half the amount of fuel, and also has the benefit of a two to three month pay-back period, saving families money that could be used for education and investment.
“If women have to collect twice as much wood to cook their food, then they’re spending less time raising themselves out of poverty,” Jonathan Posner, associate professor of mechanical engineering and principal investigator of the Clean Cookstove Lab, told UW Today.