As a result of researching, testing and prototyping for the Himalayan Rocket Stove project over the last 3 years, I’ve stumbled across an effective way to make smokeless cook-stoves. This was not deliberate as my focus was on looking for a cheap local solution to make insulated burn tubes for the Himalayan Rocket Stove project. Whilst developing a ceramic burn tube option I discovered that it is easy and affordable to make smokeless cookstoves using the same process.
Whilst in Ladakh researching production possibilities for the Himalayan Rocket Stove project I had been having trouble getting deliveries up to the mountains on the perilous roads. I needed to find substitutes for the perlite, stainless steel and ceramic wool I was hoping to use so I started experimenting with clay and various additives.
Using clay is not a new idea when it comes to making cook stoves or even rocket stoves. Many parts of the world use clay for their stoves, and some of those stoves incorporate elements of the rocket design to make them more efficient.
What I needed to make the clay really work though was to modify it’s properties from behaving as a thermal mass to that of an insulator. Clay is wonderful at absorbing heat which is the opposite of what is required for a rocket stove to work. I needed it to trap heat and stop it escaping. The basic mechanism of insulating products is sealed pockets of air so we started brainstorming about things we could add to the clay to make small sealed pockets of air.
At first I tried barley grain and this worked a bit but being a dense grain it took a lot of firing (and smoke) for the grain to burn out. Eventually I found that puffed rice proved to be quite successful in terms of making clay into an insulative material.
In mid October 2016 I was running a workshop for some locals in Ladakh on how to use clay for making the engines for rocket stoves to be used for heating homes, hot water and for making ovens. While we were working outdoors building clay rocket stoves and chatting I was stunned to learn how many people are suffering as a result of household air pollution (HAP) caused by smokey cookstoves. I had known it was a lot but the actual numbers are truly staggering. More than 4 million a year are dying and 800 million are badly affected, being mostly women and children.
It was after making multiple test units for rocket stove engines that I realised the potential for replacing smokey cookfires. Just using the our clay tube ‘donuts’ with a pot on top would allow someone to easily make a cookstove that is both efficient and smokeless using local materials. We developed the simplest and most effective design utilising the various innovations we had come up with over several months of design testing, and have now filmed a short video (to be released shortly) detailing exactly how to make these stoves.
The plan is to share the knowledge with as many people as possible via whatever means we can. The first video will be released soon with me talking in English. I would like to make a number of additional versions in various languages with local actors for people in different regions.
I also want to share this simple design in a non-profit format by training and employing locals from various regions to travel village by village training local men and women to make these stoves. These people would then be able to create their own employment making stoves for others, as well as running their own training workshops.
The vision is to create a smokeless cookstove revolution by empowering people with the knowledge to make their own stoves in a size, style and shape to suit their cultural context. The workshops will train people with knowledge empowering them to continue creating and developing the concepts in ways that suit them.
Please read, share, comment and like. 100% of proceeds go to training locals… no middle management involved!