Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Pyrolytic Cook Stoves And Biochar Production In Kenya: A Whole Systems Approach to Sustainable Energy, Environmental Health, and Human Prosperity

EPA Grant Number: SU835548
Title: Pyrolytic Cook Stoves And Biochar Production In Kenya: A Whole Systems Approach to Sustainable Energy, Environmental Health, and Human Prosperity
Investigators: Hestrin, Rachel , Davis, Jennifer A. , Edwards, Rufus D. , Fisher, Elizabeth , Guerena, David , Hsu, Tedman , Lehmann, Johannes , Torres, Dorisel , Zwetsloot, Marie
Institution: Cornell University , University of California - Irvine
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $87,841
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2013) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability



The principal objectives of this project are to improve human welfare and environmental health by 1) reducing air pollution from cook stoves, 2) conserving natural resources, 3) reducing erosion and water contamination, and 4) building local capacity in Western Kenya. We will employ a whole systems approach, using an improved pyrolytic cook stove as our intervention tool.


In order to achieve these objectives, we will 1) field-test our pyrolytic cook stove in Kenyan households, 2) refine the stove design, and 3) investigate the potential uses of biochar as a tool for environmental management. We will compare our stove’s performance to that of the traditional three stone stove, and to that of the Anderson TLUD stove. Measurements of stove emissions, efficiency, and feedback from Kenyan stakeholders will be used to further refine the stove design. We will also investigate environmental applications of biochar, focusing on 1) biochar as a tool against erosion and runoff in Kenya’s western highlands and 2) the chemical properties of biochar that confer greatest N stability and retention in soil, thereby reducing nutrient leaching, water contamination, and dependence on synthetic fertilizers. Participatory research and international collaborations play an essential role in our approach.

Expected Results:

We expect our improved pyrolytic cook stove to have better fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and the capacity to utilize a broader range of fuel feedstocks (such as agricultural residues and invasive weeds) compared to other cook stove systems. This will reduce the quantity of biomass necessary to supply daily fuel needs, ultimately conserving natural resources. The improved cook stove will also reduce air pollution and associated health hazards. In addition, we expect that soil applications of biochar will sequester carbon from the atmosphere, mitigate erosion and fertilizer runoff, improve water quality, and reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizers. The results from Phase II will help advance this technology towards larger scale economic evaluation and adoption.

Supplemental Keywords:

green engineering, agricultural waste stream utilization, ecosystem services, soil health, soil fertility, alternative energy