In 2006, Alexander Drummond and Jonathan Cedar met in New York City and quickly realised they shared a love for sustainable energy and design.Frustrated that every camping stove required batteries or petroleum, Drummond and Cedar founded the BioLite company and set out to create a wood-burning stove that runs on clean energy without a lot of smoke. This stove would have a ton of practical use in the developing world.
An estimated three billion people in third world countries use wooden cooking stoves. These smoky stoves cause 1.5 million deaths from smoke inhalation every year, killing more people than malaria.
Drummond and Cedar went to the Aprovecho Research centre in Oregon to create the original prototype for a thermoelectric chip which uses wasted heat to create electricity. The energy from that chip powers a fan to reduce the smoke, which increases the efficiency of the fire and reduces the toxins in the air that are created with traditional wood burning fires.
“We set out to test how one would make the thermoelectric chargers,” says Aprovecho’s executive director Dean Still.
Still leads a team that helps 10 to 30 different manufacturers a year to make better stoves and said the BioLite stove was “very clean.” After years of trial and error with prototypes, the BioLite CampStove was born, which later gave way to the HomeStove when the company realised the global impact and sent it out to the third world.
BioLite conducted tests in India and Africa and will further test the HomeStove in the developing world on a larger scale over the coming months, according to BioLite spokeswoman Erica Rosen.
The stove reduces smoke in the air by 94 per cent, carbon dioxide by 91 per cent and fuel consumption by half, according to BioLite. Families no longer have to look for as much fuel to power their stoves, saving hours of work a week.
If that wasn’t enough, the extra electricity the chip collects isn’t wasted. A USB port on the stove can charge electronics such as phones and other devices, crucial for the 1.3 billion people who lack electricity, according to BioLite data.
Boston company Rose Park Advisors was among the companies that invested in BioLite, they did so a year ago, and they’ve been “thrilled” with their progress, according to lead advisor Matthew Christensen. “It’s really a pleasure to work with them.”
Christensen called the HomeStove “an energy solution for the developing world.” It gives energy to those who don’t have enough, or any, of it, he said. And he mentioned that not only are there the health benefits from the decreased smoke and carbon dioxide inhalation, but also an incredible savings on charging electric products.
“Some people spend $1 a week to just charge their phones,” Christensen said.
For those without electricity and for those who want a clean and more efficient way to cook, Drummond and Cedar’s innovative invention can become an invaluable tool.
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