A Green Chemistry Approach for Producing Non-Synthetic Pesticide in Under-Developed Regions

EPA Grant Number: SU836115
Title: A Green Chemistry Approach for Producing Non-Synthetic Pesticide in Under-Developed Regions
Investigators: Seay, Jeffrey R.
Institution: University of Kentucky
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $14,994
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability


The main objective of the University of Kentucky Appropriate Technology and Sustainability (UKATS) P3 research team is to develop a sustainable, low-cost method for producing a non-synthetic pest repellent, known as wood vinegar, from already existing biochar production techniques present in rural regions of Cameroon, and Tamil Nadu, India. This added incentive reduces the release of volatile chemicals and tars into the atmosphere, which is the case when making biochar using current practices. As a result, this research focuses on minimizing atmospheric pollution by collecting and condensing the released chemicals into a useful and inexpensive, non-synthetic pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide known as wood vinegar. To achieve this goal, the following tasks are proposed: Design and optimize a production method for generating wood vinegar by pyrolysis of locally available biomass; determine the composition of the wood vinegar and its variance as different biomasses are pyrolyzed; conduct field studies in Cameroon and India for the use of wood vinegar as a pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide to enhance its effectiveness; and complete the mechanical design and fabrication plans for making wood vinegar using locally sourced construction materials to implement the prototype at ACREST and ODAM.

This project has been conceived through a partnership with the African Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST) located in Bangang, Cameroon, and the Organization for Development and Maintenance (ODAM) in Tamil Nadu, India. The description of the student team project will be to design and optimize the construction of the wood vinegar processor, and analyze its product for a green chemistry use as a non-synthetic pesticide. The challenge to the student team is to fabricate this processor using only locally sourced materials present in rural regions and maximize the cost to be less than 100 USD.


The UKATS P3 team will apply the principles of appropriate technology and green chemistry to produce a non-synthetic pesticide for locally available resources. During the process of pyrolyzing biomass into biochar, volatile gases are freely released to the atmosphere. In rural regions of Cameroon and India where biochar production techniques exist, a method for reducing the emission of these gases is not present, and can be difficult to achieve as sophisticated cooling systems are required. Therefore, the UKATS P3 research team has developed a sustainable method for collecting, condensing, and transforming the emitted waste into an extremely beneficial non-synthetic pesticide, known as wood vinegar. This green chemistry based product acts as a valuable incentive to the existing production of biochar. The design of the wood vinegar processor includes no moving parts, electricity, or importation of construction materials, making it affordable for underdeveloped communities. Nonetheless, due to the non-standard construction materials present in the rural regions, the overall efficiency of the process is jeopardized. However, additional research will be conducted to optimize the energy efficiency of the processor during variations in its constructional geometry by creating a computational heat transfer model. In addition, chemical analysis of the wood vinegar product as a non-synthetic pesticide is also being performed to identify its composition and enhance its effectiveness.

Expected Results:

The results of this student led design project will impact people, prosperity and the plant by combining existing engineering technology in a way that makes the collection and use of wood vinegar based pesticide easy and accessible to a wide array of potential users in the developing world. Progress evaluation of the project will be tracked by surveying the dissemination and use of wood vinegar and its benefits to the communities of Bangang, Cameroon and Tamil Nadu, India.

Supplemental Keywords:

Appropriate technology, agriculture, wood vinegar, pyrolysis