Final Report: Optimizing the Use of Biofuels in Cook Stoves for Improved Indoor Air Quality and Forest Sustainability in Rural Nepal

EPA Grant Number: SU835316
Title: Optimizing the Use of Biofuels in Cook Stoves for Improved Indoor Air Quality and Forest Sustainability in Rural Nepal
Investigators: Robinson, Jennifer , Huber, Jeff , Lighty, JoAnn S , Smith, A. , Sweeney, D.
Institution: University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Cook Stoves , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


An estimated 3.5 million women and children die annually from upper respiratory disease related to indoor cooking smoke. Rural communities in Nepal use inefficient and unsafe open fires for cooking. In addition to their contribution to poor indoor and outdoor air quality, these open fires contribute to deforestation; Nepal’s forests are vanishing. This project focused on creating a more efficient cook stove with a focus on people (improving health and economy), planet (reducing deforestation), and prosperity (economic benefits associated with stove fabrication/repair and reduction in time gathering fuel). Although previous studies have examined cook-stove efficiency and emissions, the proposed project is innovative in its focus on the use of local fuels, training and education, and local fabrication and maintenance/repair. The proposed project’s pollution prevention benefits include the reduction of air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, including the associated air and water quality impacts.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The first stage of the project was to select a stove based on criteria established in the Phase I proposal and inputs from partners. Criteria included stove performance, material availability, construction time, and durability. A mud-brick rocket stove was selected. Two stoves were fabricated prior to the assessment trip to determine needed materials, tools, and ease of manufacturing. During the assessment trip, two stoves were also manufactured locally from available materials. For the traditional 3-stone fire, a local improved stove, and our mud-brick cook stove, CO emissions (in the room and at the cook level) were collected, WBTs were performed, and amount of fuel burned was determined. The results showed that the mud-brick rocket stove reduced CO emissions, by up to 40%, reduced fuel usage, by 50%, and slightly increased the time to boil water, by 7%. The mud-brick rocket stove did not have the lowest CO emissions in all cases. However, visual inspection of filters collected during the assessment trip revealed that the mud-brick rocket stove reduced PM emissions. In the remaining Phase I time period, the PM emissions will be better quantified in the laboratory as this is very important in improving health.


Phase I resulted in the successful design of a more efficient cook stove with, on average, reduced CO and PM emissions and increased fuel efficiency. Both of these results contribute to the challenge goals of improving people’s health and the planet. Two stoves were built and tested in actual homes during the assessment trip to Kumari, Nepal, which will help transition the stoves to the local community. The partnerships established in Phase I were critical to the success of the project. Our partners included a local group in Kathmandu, Health for Nepal, the Mountain Fund, Health and Education for Nepal, and the local chapter of Engineers without Borders. In addition, during our assessment trip, the local community rallied around our project. The team also presented the importance of clean stove technology and our measurement tools to local schoolchildren. Finally, in return, the team learned and enjoyed the local customs and culture.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Air emissions, renewable fuel, environmental education, energy recovery, land use

Relevant Websites:

Project Facebook page: University of Utah P3: Clean Cookstoves Project Exit
Alexys Smith’s Office of Sustainability post to her blog. Exit
Kanchi Discovers Nepal Exit
Department of Chemical Engineering project video Exit