From The WHO on Lower Emission Solid Fuel Stoves

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued the first-ever health-based guidelines on clean fuels and technologies for household cooking, heating and lighting: INDOOR AIR QUALITY GUIDELINES: HOUSEHOLD FUEL COMBUSTION 2014

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Adding forced draft and chimneys to biomass cookstoves helps to meet WHO IAQ guidelines

From section 5.4.1 Roles of clean fuels and lower emission solid fuel stoves

“As recognized in these guidelines, and specifically in Recommendation 2, which addresses policy during transition, improved solid fuel stoves will continue to make an important contribution to the needs of a substantial proportion of lower income and rural homes where primary use of clean fuels is not feasible for some time to come. Work to develop substantially improved solid fuel stoves should continue in parallel with, but not hinder or displace, efforts to encourage transition to clean fuels. The contribution of solid fuel stoves to the mix of devices and fuels promoted will depend on the completeness of combustion that can be achieved when such technologies are in everyday use (as demonstrated through emissions testing), and the consequent reductions in health risks.” (pg.62)

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. 

Cleaner Burning Biomass Stoves: In Homes!

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The British Petroleum clean burning Oorja FD-TLUD stove from India

If protecting health and climate are important in stove projects, why not monetize the reductions of health/climate pollutants in carbon-offset projects?

Only the reduction in fuel use earns carbon income now!

With equal heat transfer efficiency, dirty burning stoves earn as much as clean burning stoves.

Dirty burning stoves are less expensive. “Market demand” reinforces the use of biomass stoves with low combustion efficiency.

Why not add income from reductions in CO, PM2.5 and Black Carbon, etc. to carbon projects to get cleaner burning stoves into use?

The approved 2017 Gold Standard Methodology already exists to do this! See: www.goldstandard.org/articles/black-carbon-and-other-short-lived-climate-pollutants

Moving Forward: Thanks to Jim Jetter’s EPA Lab!

Champion (2021) average energy emission factors (g/MJ) from ISO high, medium, and low tests. 

Champion, Wyatt M., et al. “Cookstove Emissions and Performance Evaluation Using a New ISO Protocol and Comparison of Results with Previous Test Protocols.” Environmental Science & Technology, 2021, 55, (22), 15333-15342.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c03390

Lab testing can quickly compare emissions from stoves. The EPA and ARC labs now measure the climate emission factors, not just PM2.5 and CO. It has been proven that only field tests show real world performance. Together, lab and field tests help to move stoves forward as we get closer to market driven stoves that please cooks, successfully cook food, use a lot less fuel, and protect health/climate.

The above chart contains a lot of information. Some takeaways are:

  1. Wow! The Three Stone Fire (TSF) was pretty bad! 943g/MJ for PM2.5, 15.5 g/MJ for CO.
  2. Charcoal made ~90% less PM2.5.
  3. The Carbon Monoxide (CO) from charcoal was only a bit higher than the Three Stone Fire (19.2g/MJ).
  4. LPG did so well! (Too bad that we are entering the end of the fossil fuel era).
  5. The forced draft pellet stove looked great, as well. (PM2.5: 30g/MJ, 2.2g/MJ CO)
  6. Black Carbon (EC) is much worse than CO2 for climate change. Many of the stoves, except the Rocket stove, successfully reduced Black Carbon. 
  7.  In this recent lab test, as in the previous MacCarthy study (2008), the Rocket stove emitted a lot of Black Carbon.  www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0973082608604299
  8. R&D has shown that the Rocket stove requires successful forced draft mixing at high temperatures to decrease emissions of Black Carbon and potentially address climate. 

When the emissions factors are summed and converted to global warming potential the forced draft stoves have the potential to generate large amounts of carbon offsets. 

Clean Burning with Metering and Mixing

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Primary air usually controls the rate of reactions: How fast the solid biomass changes into wood gas.

Jets of primary air into the charcoal beneath the biomass add mixing while raising temperatures.

Secondary air jets into the side of the flame can also supply needed mixing but tend to lower temperatures.

Metering the gas supply into the tuned combustion chamber is important!

Too much wood gas can easily overcome the ability of even a well-tuned combustion chamber to achieve close-to-complete combustion. 

You can’t pour too much gas into a carburetor!

Pot Skirts – basic theory

Dr. Sam Baldwin describes the use of a pot skirt in his book “Biomass Stoves: Engineering Design, Development, and Dissemination (1987).” Changes in the length and diameter of the channel gap (between the pot and the interior of the skirt) result in dramatic changes in heat transfer efficiency.

“In fact, the channel efficiency, defined as the fraction of the energy in the hot gas entering the channel that is transferred to the pot, is extremely sensitive to changes in the channel gap. For a 10cm long channel, the channel efficiency drops from 46% for an 8mm gap to 26% for a 10cm gap. Thus the stove and pot dimensions must be very precisely controlled.” (pg. 45)

If stoves are to be compared, these types of variables must be controlled. The use of a standard pot, or pots, without pot skirts will result in performance scores that are significantly reduced. If a pot skirt is used on testing pots it should be identical in all aspects. Again, the use of a standard pot(s) seems to be required.


Happy Holidays, 2023!

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That the days are shorter is easy to attest to here at Blue Mountain. Our campus is wedged between parallel rows of 100-foot tall Fir trees. Yesterday, the rare sun fell down below the celestial horizon at 2PM.  We envy the valley farmers whose day lasts until around five. On the other hand, being surrounded by the forest up here makes the air sweet and clean. But only when the wood burning heating and cooking stoves that we are developing and testing are protecting health and climate.

It can be so terrible when traditional stoves are belching smoke! I have had pneumonia three times and get nervous when my throat gets sore. Clean burning makes me a lot happier. 

HEALTH: Can biomass be burned cleanly enough to protect air quality when warming houses and cooking food? 

CLIMATE: Can the Global Warming Potential of burned biomass meet the Paris Agreements and join solar, hydro and wind as a renewable energy source? 

Sure, we do both every day.  

Celebrating life and scientific endeavor in the forest becomes pleasant and comforting when we are toasty warm, and the smoke disappears. 

Feels downright civilized.

Iterative Development of Stoves and Black Box Theory

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“The concept of black boxes has been around since the early days of systems theory though some attribute the first use to the field of electrical engineering.

It is a simple concept and has a straightforward definition: we know the inputs and subsequent outputs to a system but the internal workings of the system are not visible to us.

Black boxes approaches focus on input and output rather than the details of how inputs are transformed into outputs”.

-John M. Green, The Application of Black Box Theory to System Development

Data Driven Hypothesis Generation

The results of experiments guide the subsequent experiments. For instance, adding secondary air jets into flame is shown to decrease PM2.5. Guided by the result, further investigation in a prototype under the emission hood determines the most successful application by varying parameters.

Random Experimental Design

In a Black Box (where the situation is complex and not understood) randomized approaches to experimental design can be effective and efficient.

Updating a 9-year-old “Clean Combustion” YouTube Video

The great and upsetting thing about YouTube videos is that they don’t go away! A lot of this old video now seems incomplete:

Our understanding of how to come closer to complete combustion has changed and includes details missing before. The following describes a hopefully less wrong set of design principles. David Evitt is currently deep diving into clean combustion and who knows what details will be added in the next few years?

Nine years ago, we thought that close to complete combustion could be achieved by forcing all gases and smoke into flame for a sufficiently long amount of time.

  1. Today we add that the air/fuel ratio in the combustion zone needs to be air rich.
  2. We add that the flame/gas/smoke/air mixture needs to be thoroughly mixed. 
  3. We add that the temperature in the combustion zone needs to be above 850°C to allow short residence times to become effective.
  4. We add that at a minimum of 850°C the residence time needs to be more than 0.2 seconds. Longer is better.
  5. Wet wood, un-preheated air jets, and mass tend to reduce temperatures to below 850°C.
  6. Optimized heat transfer efficiency helps to reduce harmful emissions since less fuel accomplishes tasks.

Aprovecho Announced as a Winner of the Wood Heater Design Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and the Alliance for Green Heat, today announced the winning teams for the Wood Heater Design Challenge (WHDC). 

Aprovecho Research Center, from Cottage Grove, Oregon, came in second place and won $25,000 with a novel burn pot, airflow configuration, and sensor package for pellet heaters. Davidon Industries from Warwick, Rhode Island was awarded first place for their mechanically automated, combustion-air control technology for cordwood heaters. Kleiss Engineering from Cloverdale, Indiana, won the third-place prize with a smart wood stove heater.

“Embracing innovation allows us to challenge existing norms, push boundaries, and discover new solutions that can reshape the entire industry,” said Dr. Valerie Sarisky-Reed, Director of BETO. “Wood stove research is part of DOE’s overall strategy to develop affordable bioenergy technologies and convert our nation’s renewable resources into fuels, power, products and in this case, more efficient wood stoves for homeowners.”

Aprovecho, Davidon, and Kleiss were selected from nine teams competing at the Wood Heater Technology Slam in September 2022. Teams pitched new wood stove ideas to retailers, the public, and experts, who assessed which stoves were the most innovative, efficient, and offered the greatest market potential. The three finalist teams moved forward to the testing phase of the competition, which was held this past spring at BNL in Upton, New York.

Read the full press release on the DOE Website. Learn more about the BETO-funded Wood Heater Design Challenge.