By Amanda Joy Ravenhill; founder of Biochar Association of the Bay Area
The ETHOS (Engineers in Technical and Humanitarian Opportunities of Service) conference, held annually in Seattle for the past 12 years, draws improved cook stove designers, implementers, and aficionados from all over the world to discuss the latest in cook stove research, efficiency, field tests, commercialization and policy. I attended for a second time this year and was once again impressed with the diversity of people attracted to this field. All conference proceedings will be posted shortly.
This year biochar was everywhere. The Friday prior to the conference, the Biomass Energy Foundation (BEF) hosted a Micro-Gasification workshop at the Mckinstry Innovation Center in South Seattle. Participants heard from President Kathy Nafie on the CAFDA model (Culture, Application, Fuel, Device, and Acceptance) of cook stove dissemination and from Paul Anderson (of BEF) on the wide variety of Micro-Gasifiers around the world. We then made a TChar prototype (part charcoal stove/part top lit up draft micro-gasifier or TLUD) and cooked lunch on three different biochar stoves from Malawi, Germany, and India.
On Saturday, Tom Miles (of TR Miles Technical Consultants and the bioenergylists.org) moderated a panel on biochar that included a presentation by Jim Grob of Seachar and a panel discussion on five major questions surrounding biochar stoves. Participants Ron Larson, Jim Grob, Christa Roth, Paul Anderson, Dean Still and I discussed the benefits and obstacles of biochar producing cook stoves. Here are some highlights from that conversation:
Later that day, I gave a presentation on the advantages of biochar stoves focusing on fuel, emissions, value of char, and climate stabilization. There were also micro-gasification talks by Marc Pare, Robert Fairchild and Dr. Anderson. Mr. Pare has been living In Vietnam for the past year working on more efficient biochar kilns for brick makers, and he presented on rice husks as a fuel.
Robert Fairchild presented on the new concept of the TChar Stove. Part TLUD, part charcoal stove, the TChar was invented last June in Malawi at a BEF Stove Camp. The top portion of the stove acts as a gasifier, and once the fuel is reduced to char, the cook can take off the top and use the bottom as a charcoal stove. The model gives the cook the flexibility to save the char or use it right away as fuel. The TChar seen here was designed by Christa Roth and others in Germany. It is a flatpack design intended for easy shipping and assembly with a hammer or even a rock.
Dr. Anderson gave a final keynote address on the future of micro-gasifier cookstoves. He discussed the versatility of TLUD structures and the option for having multiple combustion units. He also made several predictions on the future of TLUDs, noting that designers and users still have a lot to learn.