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: SU835341
Title: Pyrolytic Cook Stoves and Biochar Production in Kenya: A Whole Systems Approach to Sustainable Energy, Environmental Health, and Human Prosperity
Investigators: Hestrin, Rachel , Edwards, Rufus D. , Fisher, Elizabeth , Guerena, David , Lehmann, Johannes , Torres, Dorisel , Zwetsloot, Marie
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $14,990
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Cook Stoves , 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) improving economic prosperity, and (4) minimizing water contamination from fertilizer. The development of pyrolytic cook stoves addresses these problems by generating clean and efficient energy, while simultaneously producing biochar. Biochar application to the soil can sequester carbon, mitigate soil degradation, improve nutrient use efficiency, and reduce pollution.


The project will achieve its objectives by (1) designing and testing a combined pyrolysis-biochar cook stove that is clean-burning, efficient, and user friendly, (2) assessing the stove’s performance in rural Kenyan households, and (3) evaluating the potential for biochar to improve ecosystem services and water quality. Participatory research is an essential aspect of the project and will inform stove development, implementation, and biochar field trials. Collaboration between students in the United States, students in Kenya, and Kenyan stakeholders will enhance the understanding of relevant problems and ensure that approaches to these problems are appropriate and effective.

Expected Results:

Anticipated results include reduced indoor air pollution, increased combustion efficiency, enhanced soil ecosystem services, improved water quality, and improved economic prosperity. Decreased emissions of particulate matter and greenhouse gases will contribute to human health and reduce stove contributions to climate change. Greater fuel efficiency will conserve natural resources and reduce the amount of time and resources spent gathering biomass. Additionally, the biochar produced by these stoves will sequester carbon from the atmosphere, maintain soil health, reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizers, and mitigate water contamination, which will contribute both to environmental health and human prosperity. The results from this work will inform further research, including the evaluation of pyrolysis stoves and biochar application for landscape-scale implementation.

Supplemental Keywords:

fertilizer runoff, green engineering, utilization of agricultural waste streams, land conservation, soil health, soil fertility, renewable feedstocks