A Continuous-Operation Variable-Feedstock Biomass Gasifier Design Based on Indigenous Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU835130
Title: A Continuous-Operation Variable-Feedstock Biomass Gasifier Design Based on Indigenous Materials
Investigators: Pohlman, Nicholas A.
Current Investigators: Pohlman, Nicholas A. , Prokup, Christopher , Ryan, John , Barnes, Jonathan , Mackey, Michael , Musika, Rudolf
Institution: Northern Illinois University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $14,935
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 - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


The objective of this research project is to confirm the thermal efficiency of a new design for a continuous-operation, natural-updraft pyrolytic biomass gasifier cookstove constructed from indigenous materials and fabrication methods available in developing nations. The cookstove will enable smallholder farmers to utilize their biomass waste materials – i.e. maize stover, water hyacinth, etc – as a fuel to cook their food and heat their homes. Additionally, the co-product biochar may be useful as a soil amendment to marginal lands.


The student design group will evaluate the thermal efficiency of a current commercial production cookstove sold domestically. From this concept, they will utilize fabrication capabilities available in developing countries to create a new cookstove. Examples of design changes include welded joints being replaced by hinges or raw materials from clay bricks rather than steel tubing. Construction of the new design will be completed during the second semester of the capstone design sequence.

Expected Results:

The quantity of heat generated by the new design and emissions content of the output flue gases will be measured. Additionally, the co-product biochar will be evaluated in preliminary growing tests to examine toxicity based on ratios of biochar and soil. Ultimately, the design will be shared via the online community focused on third-world cookstoves such that it may be implemented in any developing nation.

Using available biomass rather than wood for cooking and home heating will reduce the deforestation of lands and erosion run-off. Furthermore, if weed species can be used, other benefits for the environment will be obtained. For example, water hyacinth in Lake Victoria, Kenya is readily available as a free resource. Elimination of this from the water surface will aid not only the cookstove user, but improve the aquaculture of the region as well.

Supplemental Keywords:

Biomass conversion; Variable-feedstock gasifier; Cookstove and furnace

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report