Mixing with Primary and Secondary Jets of Air

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Regardless of the velocity of secondary air, flow rate, or the angle at which air is injected into the fire, secondary air tends to lower the temperature of gases. Researchers have found that injecting secondary air into the side of the flame in a Rocket stove results in most effective mixing.*

The Jet-Flame, on the other hand, blows primary air jets up into the bed of made charcoal below the burning sticks of wood, creating a “mini blast furnace.” The jets of primary air increase the temperature in the charcoal, frequently resulting in higher temperatures in the combustion chamber. The mixing function is up into the fire, not into the side as with secondary air jets.

Boman et al., 2005 report that temperatures of 850C or above are needed for close to complete combustion in short residence times, as in a cookstove. Since excess air lowers temperatures, using the minimal volume of air in secondary air jets to achieve thorough mixing seems preferable. Researchers have recommended that the jets should penetrate into the middle of the flame but not enter into each other. (*Lefebvre and Ballal, 2010; Udesen, 2019; Vanormelingen and Van den Bulck, 1999).

Unfortunately, raising the temperature of pre-heated secondary air by a lot more than ~ 100C seems to be difficult. Cookstove combustion chambers are usually small, limiting the area exposed to high temperatures. The heat transfer efficiency is much lower from degraded temperatures further from flame.

 Residence time and temperature are easily measured. However, “thorough mixing” has not been defined and is not yet measured in our experiments. We infer that the woodgas/air/flame was thoroughly mixed when the emissions of PM2.5 and CO are close to zero as measured with the LEMS emissions hood. 

sticks burning in rocket stove

How To Achieve Close To Complete Combustion of Biomass

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The Jet-Flame pushes jets of primary air into the fire to aid combustion.
  1. When a wooden stick is burned a lot of smoke is produced but the made charcoal at the tip of the wooden stick does not make much smoke.
    Rocket Stove: Push the sticks in slowly so the charcoal at the tip is burning.
    TLUD: Charcoal covers the slowly burning fresh wood.
  2. If the stove begins smoking, the solid wood is being turned into gas too quickly, too much wood gas is being produced and un-combusted fuel is escaping.
    Rocket Stove: Pull the sticks back until just the tips are burning.
    TLUD: Reduce the primary air.
  3. Mixing the smoke, gases, flame, and air reduces emissions.
    Rocket Stove and TLUD: Cut up the laminar flames with static mixing devices or jets of primary or secondary air. Aim the jets of secondary air into the flame and adjust the velocity of the jets to completely cover the burning fuel. Primary air jets can also achieve close to complete combustion. Excess velocity in primary or secondary jets is detrimental when it reduces the combustion temperature.
  4. For close to complete combustion the temperature in the combustion zone needs to be 850C or above. The woodgas and air and flame have to be thoroughly mixed. The residence time needs to be 0.2 seconds or more. Reduce the amount of woodgas entering the combustion zone until close to complete combustion is achieved. Biomass fuels with 15% or lower moisture content are easier to burn.
  5. It is necessary to tune the stove under an emissions hood to achieve close to complete combustion. Change one variable at a time and test until significance is achieved.

Secondary Air in TLUDs and Rocket Stoves

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Forced draft mixing with 2nd air jets in Dr. Tom Reed’s WoodGas Stove at around 1,000C

Forced draft mixing with preheated jets of primary air reduced emissions of PM 2.5 by around 90% in our stove tests with the Jet-Flame. Would adding secondary air jets further decrease emissions?

Secondary Air Works in TLUDs

Lefebvre, Vanormelingen, and Udesen examined secondary air jets air in cylindrical combustion chambers and describe most successful patterns of penetration depth. Jet penetration lengths approaching the middle of a cylindrical combustion chamber resulted in a maximum reduction of PM2.5 emissions. An increase in the number of jets created more thorough mixing. It was important to have the jets meet in the middle, but with minimal necessary force, to ensure highest temperatures and highest velocity of hot gases to the pot.

Forced draft secondary air jets can decrease the upward draft in a cylinder. Jets of air aimed horizontally into the flame most efficiently create mixing. But even when aimed upwards toward the pot they create a ‘roof of air’ that slows the draft by creating a high-pressure front.

Regardless of the velocity of secondary air flow rates, or the angle at which air is injected into the combustion chamber, supplying secondary air also tends to significantly lower the temperature. For this reason, using a minimal amount of air was found to be best. There is a reported balance resulting in optimized mixing, draft, residence time, and temperature. (Lefebvre, 2010) (Vanormelingen, 1999) (Udesen, 2019)

How Do We Add Secondary Air Successfully to Rocket Stoves?

One obvious difference between TLUDs and Rocket stoves is the large fuel door in the side of the Rocket stove. A TLUD is an open topped cylinder with a small amount of primary air entering the batch of fuel from below the packed fuel bed. In the TLUD, the fuel is initially dropped into the cylinder, while in a Rocket stove horizontal sticks are pushed into the combustion zone through a fuel door. The pressure/volume of secondary air jets introduced into a Rocket stove may be limited because the high-pressure front can create a backdraft that sends smoke out of the fuel door.

Supported by funding from The Osprey Foundation, ARC is currently experimenting to determine: 1.) How much pre-warming can be achieved and 2.) What is the most effective pressure/volume for secondary air jets in a forced draft Rocket stove.

Jet-Flame Paper, Simplified

In the last Newsletter, we announced the publication of Aprovecho’s recent research on the Jet-Flame, “Retrofitting stoves with forced jets of primary air improves speed, emissions, and efficiency: Evidence from six types of biomass cookstoves” Here is a simplified summary of the findings:

When the goals for biomass cook stove interventions were raised to include protecting health, it was obvious that adding a chimney or cooking outdoors continued to be the historically proven solutions. USA heating stoves create more smoke than cook stoves but the smoke is transported outdoors in the chimney and diluted by clean air to meet EPA outdoor air standards for PM2.5. Cooking outdoors, especially in a bit of wind, directly dilutes the PM2.5.

When the outdoor air is cleaner, the emissions from the stove can be higher. When the outdoor air is dirtier, the emissions need to be cleaner. Simple! Aprovecho published a model that estimates emissions based on the quality of the outdoor air. See: http://aprovecho.org/portfolio-item/project-planning/

ISO Tier Mapping for CO and PM2.5 per MJdelivered for the natural (blue triangle) and forced draft (orange dot) cases. Note the log scale on both axes.

As seen on the upper right side of the graph above, stick burning stoves (even in the lab) emit very high levels of PM2.5. That can be OK when used with a functional chimney or outdoors in rural locations with limited numbers of cooks per hectare. But in many more crowded situations the emission rates need to be much lower to protect health.

Adding forced draft mixing to many types of stoves, including the open fire, can be very effective in reducing the emission rates of PM2.5. The Jet-Flame shoots primary-air-only jets into the bottom of the fire and this simple technique reduces emissions of PM2.5 and CO, while reducing fuel use and time to boil. We hope that technologies like the Jet-Flame can assist stove projects to protect health especially when combined with chimneys and/or outdoor cooking.

The Jet-Flame in a home made CQC Rocket Stove

Jet-Flame Research Results From Six Types of Biomass Cookstoves

The high mass CQC stove with Jet-Flame inserted from the side.
The SSM Jet-Flame in the C Quest Capital 15 brick stove

The Journal “Energy for Sustainable Development” has just published Aprovecho’s most recent research paper, “Retrofitting stoves with forced jets of primary air improves speed, emissions, and efficiency: Evidence from six types of biomass cook stoves.” It was authored by Samuel Bentson, David Evitt, Dean Still, Dr. Daniel Lieberman and Dr. Nordica MacCarty (Energy for Sustainable Development 71 (2022) 104–117)

Read the full research paper at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esd.2022.09.013, available to all as an open access document thanks to Dr. Dan Lieberman of GH Labs.

Quoting from the Abstract:

Incorporating jets of forced air into biomass cook stove combustion has been shown to potentially decrease harmful emissions, leading to a variety of designs in recent years. However, forced draft stoves have shown mixed success in terms of real world performance, usability, and durability. The Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer Jet-Flame forced draft retrofit accessory was developed by the Gates funded Global Health Labs and ARC, to implement forced jets of primary air at a low cost into a wide range of types of cook stoves using a small 1.5-W fan housed in a low-cost cast iron body to be inserted beneath the fuel bed of a biomass cooking fire.

This research sought to quantify the potential efficiency and emissions performance impacts of the Jet-Flame when installed in six different types of biomass cook stoves (three open or shielded fires and three rocket stoves) versus the natural draft performance of each. The effect of the operating fan voltage was also measured. A series of tests following a modified ISO 19867-1:2018 protocol were performed in the laboratory using the Aprovecho Laboratory Emissions Measurement System (LEMS) equipped with additional oxygen and temperature sensors. 

Results for each stove, carefully tended with a single layer of sticks, showed that the global average PM2.5 reduction with the Jet-Flame was 89% relative to the natural draft cases, with larger relative improvements seen in the most rudimentary stoves. CO was reduced by a global average of 74%, reaching Tier 4 or 5 for all stoves. Thermal efficiency was also improved by 34% when calculated without taking into account the energy content of the remaining char (or 21% with char), illustrating the value of burning char to provide cooking energy rather than leaving it unburned in the combustion chamber as is common in many natural draft stoves. Time to boil was also reduced by 8%.

In addition, adjusting the voltage of the jet-flame assisted in modulating firepower, possibly improving the usability of the stove.

For more about the Jet-Flame, see www.jet-flame.com

Investigating the Chitetezo Mbaula Cookstove

Read more about the Chitetezo Mbaula project at unsustainablemagazine.com. Photo by Deogracias Benjamin Kalima

The Chitetezo Mbaula cookstove is distributed by United Purpose in Malawi with the goal of combating deforestation by replacing the traditional charcoal/firewood cooking stoves. In an effort to assist, ARC worked with stakeholders to see how small changes in the stove might translate into fuel and emissions reductions in lab tests. Of course, this information is only useful to researchers in the field as possible iterations. They determine if the changes might translate into practical conservation. The collaboration continues as possibilities are examined.

In its stock form, the stove achieved an average thermal efficiency of 22.5% during three modified laboratory based IWA 4.2.3 tests at high power. As the stove body got hotter, the thermal efficiency increased from 17.6% to 26.6%. The thermal efficiency Tier rating was 1, and PM2.5 emissions, at 1093.3 mg/MJd, gave a Tier rating of 0.

Simple Adjustments Make Some Performance Improvements

Three one inch in diameter holes were drilled through the back of the clay stove body with the intention of allowing more air into the charcoal bed. The pot gap on top of the stove was also reduced to 6mm. These two changes resulted in an average increase of thermal efficiency with char from 22.5% to 29.6%. 

The CO emissions factor per energy delivered to the cooking pot decreased from 10.45 g/MJd to 5.63 g/MJd, although at the same time the firepower decreased from 8.9 kW to 5.9 kW. Natural draft stoves with lower firepower tend to make less emissions. Since the time to boil (normalized to 75°C temperature rise) also increased from 22.4 minutes to 25.2 minutes, further study is needed to determine if the reduction in CO emissions also occurs at 22.4 min to boil. 

Jet-Flame and Pot Skirt Increase Efficiency, Reduce PM2.5

The Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer Jet-Flame was then inserted into the stove body with a metal Rocket combustion chamber. A 6mm channel gap metal skirt was also used around the 5 liter flat bottomed pot. With these changes, the stove achieved an average thermal efficiency of 47.7% during three laboratory tests at high power. As the stove body got hotter, the thermal efficiency increased from 44.9% to 52.3%. The IWA thermal efficiency Tier rating was 4. Since all of the tests scored within Tier 4, which is the maximum score under the ISO IWA, the 90% confidence interval of the Tier rating was 4 to 4. The PM2.5 emissions of the stove were 69.0 mg/MJd and the Tier rating was 3.

When tested in the field, ARC roughly estimates that emissions will be something like three times higher. This is a “rule of thumb” that is not meant to be an accurate guess but a reminder that many researchers have found that emissions in the field are much higher compared to lab test results! The lab test can point out theoretical “improvements” but only field testing can determine actual performance and practicality. On the other hand, if cooking takes place outdoors, as in the photo above, exposure to harmful smoke can be estimated to be dramatically reduced by the increased air exchange rates.

An SSM Jet-Flame Optimized “Open Fire”

Last week we wrote about using the LEMS to tune up a stove, so it makes sense to share the actual results of a recent test series with you this week.

When ARC makes an Open Fire, we often use three bricks on end to hold up the pot. The bricks are 16cm high. It has been fascinating to experiment with the SSM Jet-Flame in the open fire to try and determine how fuel-efficient and clean burning the combination can be. Last month, we spent a couple of weeks changing one thing at a time and then completed nine 30-minute ISO high power tests on the close-to-optimized design.

Here are the test results:

test results chart

Description of the changes

  • We kept the pot height at 16cm above the top of the Jet-Flame.
  • Three rebar supports held up the pot replacing the heavier and bulkier bricks.
  • A short 6cm high by 18cm long FeCrAl fence kept the sticks on top of the combustion zone in the Jet-Flame.
  • A lightweight Winiarski 304 stainless steel “0.7 constant cross sectional area” stovetop increased the heat transfer efficiency from the hot flue gases into the pot.
  • Thermal efficiency was also improved with an 11cm high pot skirt creating a 6mm channel gap on the sides of the 26cm in diameter pot.
  • We learned that the sides of the open fire should be partially enclosed for best performance. A 5cm high opening at the lower portion of the sides of the open fire allowed fresh air to enter the combustion zone. 11cm of the upper portion of the sides of the Open Fire were enclosed with aluminum foil.
  • To make sure that there was no backdraft, a 7cm tall, 14cm wide and 7cm deep metal fuel tunnel was added on the outside of the sides of the partially enclosed Open Fire.

Photo of the experiment

Conclusion

It looks like a Rocket combustion chamber may not be needed to achieve Tier 4/5 results from an “Open Fire” when tested in a lab. A short fence that holds a single layer of sticks on top of the primary air jets seems to be as good.

Temperature, CO & PM 2.5

High temperatures in the combustion chamber seem to have both positive and negative effects on emission rates of biomass. Higher temperatures lower the residence time needed for more complete combustion. At the same time, especially with dry wood, the rate of reactions (how much wood gas is being made per unit of time) is increased. If wood gas is made too quickly, some of it can escape unburned. Our experience has been that in a hotter combustion chamber the fuel must be metered into the fire more slowly to lower emissions. In Rocket and TLUD stoves, the rate of reactions must be controlled to eliminate smoke.

Experiments have shown that elevated temperatures shorten the combustion time for CO and PM 2.5. At 900°C the combustion time required for complete combustion is less than half the time needed at 700°C for biomass particles (Li, 2016). At 900°C, a residence period of 0.5 seconds resulted in close to complete combustion of well mixed CO and PM 2.5 (Grieco and Baldi, 2011; Lu et al., 2008; Yang et al., 2008).

Boman (2005) reports that temperatures above 850°C in a 5kW combustion zone combined with air rich and well mixed conditions for 0.5 seconds resulted in an almost complete depletion of particulate matter. The use of insulation in Rocket stoves can create a combustion zone with temperatures above 1,000°C. Forced draft TLUDs can generate similar temperatures in the secondary air mixing zone above the fuel bed.  Interestingly, when temperatures are around 850°C the near complete combustion of well-mixed carbon monoxide and particulate matter seems to require short residence times. Both forced draft Rocket and TLUD stoves can minimize the emissions of products of incomplete combustion even though the residence time is very limited.

Recently, we ran a series of fifteen experiments trying to optimize performance in a low mass Rocket stove with Jet-Flame. Since we were testing with dry wood we had to be careful not to over insulate the combustion chamber. Insulation made the whole length of the stick catch on fire increasing the rate of reactions and firepower.  When more than 8cm of the stick was burning more mixing was needed to achieve close to complete combustion. When only the tips of the sticks were on fire the metering of woodgas into the fire was slower and less mixing was required.

As seen in the following graph, the emissions of CO were again shown to be reduced at higher temperatures. As a rule of thumb when designing a stove, we try to create temperatures above 700°C about 6cm above the fire, at a minimum.

A Culture of Daily Experimentation

Testing a Chitetezo Stove with a Jet-Flame

What do I like most about Aprovecho Research Center? We have created a “culture of daily experimentation.”

Scheduling two to three experiments every morning means that we can try less-likely-to-succeed variations. That’s great because experiments that don’t succeed in improving a stove often reveal interesting and possibly unexpected results. And that can lead to new insights. “Accident favors the prepared mind,” Pasteur reminds us.

Nordica MacCarty, our new Executive Director, recently suggested that it would be a good idea to see what happens when the Jet-Flame is used without a Rocket combustion chamber. We have been working with Christa Roth and Christoph Messinger from GIZ, investigating what happens when the Jet-Flame is used in the Chitetezo stove. It was easy to continue the investigation into the effects of primary air jets blowing up into the fuel. We removed the rocket-style combustion chamber that we were testing, and put a short metal fence around the Jet-Flame to keep the sticks on top of the air holes. A SuperPot was used and set directly on top of the stove.

It’s been very interesting to try different sized sticks with the Jet-Flame. Generally, small sticks burn faster and make a lot of flame, but also more smoke. Two 4 cm x 4.5 cm sticks burn more slowly and emit less smoke but the firepower is lower. With no insulation around the combustion zone, we tried burning four sticks that were 2 cm x 2.5 cm. The results were surprisingly good: Tier 4 for thermal efficiency, Tier 4 for PM2.5, and Tier 5 for CO.

The size of the sticks made a significant difference on all three measures, which makes sense and has been seen in natural draft stoves. But it’s noteworthy that the size of the sticks results in big differences with the Jet-Flame. Following up on Nordica’s suggestion made for a more interesting week here at the lab. Completing ten to fifteen half-hour experiments weekly makes it more likely that progress is being made.

Reading/learning in front of the computer is important, and OK for a while, but we also like to get into the lab to try and create/learn something new.

Video: Lighting a Fire With The Jet-Flame – No Smoke

The Gates funded Global Health Labs and ARC/SSM invented the Jet-Flame

Global Health Labs, Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer and Aprovecho teams show off the Jet-Flame
Global Health Labs, Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer and Aprovecho teams show off the Jet-Flame

Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer manufactures the Jet-Flame (jet- flame.com) that is being field tested in over 30 locations. Our lab helped to create this accessory that is designed to reduce emissions while increasing thermal efficiency and reducing time to boil. 30 pre-heated primary air jets shoot up into the fire resulting in increased molecular mixing and elevated temperatures. Smoke is reduced by about 90% compared to an open fire.

A forced draft stove can be very clean burning, but start up may create a lot of PM2.5. This is because the cold combustion chamber can allow a higher percentage of the smoke and Carbon Monoxide to escape unburnt. David Evitt, COO of ASAT (the for-profit arm of ARC), invented a method for lighting the Jet-Flame that can be a lot cleaner.

  • Wet 30 grams of left over charcoal with 10 grams of alcohol.
  • Place the small pile of charcoal on top of the holes in the Jet-Flame.
  • Light the charcoal.
  • Turn on the Jet-Flame.
  • Push the tips of the sticks of wood against the pile of burning charcoal.
  • Keep on pushing the sticks into the fire as the tips are consumed.

Here’s a video showing how we light fires in the lab: