Final Report: Integrating Improved Sustainable Technologies into the Heart of the Home — The Kitchen

EPA Grant Number: SU835088
Title: Integrating Improved Sustainable Technologies into the Heart of the Home — The Kitchen
Investigators: Bormann, Noel E , Bannister, Ethan , Elmenhurst, Sidney , Ferro, Patrick D , Fry, Spencer , London, Mara , Matsumoto, Andrew , Nowak, Paul , Stevens, Christopher E. , Walter, Melanie
Institution: Gonzaga University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The initial phase of this project was to develop sustainable solutions that improve indoor air quality and improve drinking water treatment in peri-urban or rural Africa. A ceramic water filter capable of removing bacteria and solids was developed to treat water intended for drinking. A thermoelectric (TE) cell-powered circuit with integrated 12-volt battery was designed to utilize waste heat generated by cooking stoves to power a small fan and duct system capable of removing some airborne particulates emitted by the cooking fires or stove.

When completed, the project will improve the health of women and children. Using the filter designed in this project will provide families with a useful method to treat drinking water. The TE cell-powered ventilation system will remove some of the airborne particulates which will reduce lung damage. Furthermore, the implementation plan will make it feasible for families with limited incomes to afford to purchase these technologies and will improve the likelihood that the systems remain operational.

Poor air and water quality are two of the many challenging problems facing developing countries. Nearly 900 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Poor indoor air quality is responsible for 1.5 million premature deaths annually. Without access to clean water and air, many people, particularly women and children, suffer a reduction in quality of life and reduced economic opportunity.

To address poor water quality, sand filtration systems and ceramic water filters are commonly used. Sand filtration systems are often not capable of removing bacteria and solids at rates comparable to ceramic water filters. Production of commonly used ceramic water filters requires as much as 200 in3 of clay material and a significant amount of fuel wood that must be burned when firing the filters in the kiln. The new filter design uses nearly 40% less clay material to form, requires less fuel wood per filter to fire, and can remove solids and bacteria.

Thermoelectric cells are capable of providing sufficient electrical power to operate small electric appliances. Thermoelectric cells mounted to a wind collar near the grate of a cook stove use waste heat from the stove to charge a 12-volt battery. This battery can then power a small ventilation system to remove airborne particulate matter emitted from the fire when the stove is in use. The battery also provides a sustainable source of electricity to power other household devices. For example, African families can commonly be forced to pay as much as $0.50 USD per week to charge cellular phones when no power grid is present. Use of this TE cell system would remove this economic burden and potentially allow families to supplement their household incomes by selling electricity to others.

Social entrepreneurship is in use throughout the developing world in business startups that solve critical societal problems, and is proposed for this project to disseminate the project outputs in Zambia. Applications of best practices in social entrepreneurship and micro-finance are used in the implementation plan developed to establish an enterprise to manufacture and sell these technologies in Africa. This enterprise is named KiZamba (kitchens in Zambia) for this proposal.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Preliminary test results from Phase I indicate that the ceramic water filter is capable of achieving removal rates comparable to the Filtron filter, a ceramic water filter currently in use in Africa, Asia and South America. The newly developed filters were able to almost completely remove (>99%) total suspended solids (TSS) from influent water with a TSS concentration of approximately 50 mg/L. Further quantification of the redesigned filter’s removal capabilities will be collected prior to the 2012 National Sustainable Design Expo.

Test results indicate that the TE cell stove wind collar is capable of generating power adequate to charge a 12-volt battery. When fully charged, the battery provides sufficient power to operate a small fan and duct system that removes some airborne particulates released from the cook fire. Ongoing work involves optimization of the TE cell stove wind collar design and mounting configuration for the ventilation duct. Fuel pellets formed from the stalks of corn plants (termed corn stover) can be burned in cook stoves, but pellet fuel in daily use requires more testing to demonstrate effectiveness.


The Phase I objectives are summarized here as (a) TE ventilation, (b) improved novel ceramic filter, (c) assessment of corn stover pellets as cooking fuel, and (d) integration of the technologies through an implementation plan. Items a, b and c have been met and demonstrated with limited testing of performance completed. Item d is completed as an initial business plan to establish an enterprise for supporting a workshop and sales into the community.

Supplemental Keywords:

Ceramic water filter, developing countries, indoor air quality, thermoelectric

Relevant Websites:

Center for Engineering Design & Entrepreneurship Exit

P3 Phase II:

Integrating Improved Sustainable Technologies into the Heart of the Home-the Kitchen