Biomass stove could convert sound into electricity

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Researchers at the University of Nottingham are leading the project currently undergoing testing in the UK and Nepal.

FUENTE – CleanTech – 20/07/09

Engineering researchers at The University of Nottingham are developing a linear alternator that could turn sound energy into electricity.

The linear alternator is part of a larger project that aims to develop a cooking stove capable of converting biomass into heat, which then could be converted into acoustic energy and then electricity.

The biomass stove is the subject of a £2 million ($3.3 million) project dubbed Score, an acronym for ‘stove for cooking, refrigeration and electricity.’ The appliance is intended to be an affordable solution for rural communities in Africa and Asia with limited access to electricity.

The biomass stove as a whole has a price target of £20 per household, based on the production of 1 million units. Each is expected to weigh between 10 and 20 kilograms (22 to 44 pounds), and would use 1 kg of fuel for each hours in use. The fuel could be any readily available biomass, including wood and dung.

According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution from solid-fuel use is responsible for more than 1.6 million annual deaths, including 800,000 children younger than five. Almost half the world’s population cooks daily meals indoors with biomass-fueled fires. Up to 20 percent of the biomass is converted into toxic substances like carbon monoxide, benzene and formaldehyde.

That has prompted a number of companies to look at providing cleaner-burning biomass cooking stoves to developing nations. The growing demand has prompted Fort Collins, Colo.-based Envirofit International to increase its 2009 production of biomass stoves for India (see Envirofit ramps clean-cooking line for India).

University of Nottingham researchers are now constructing test models of their biomass-powered device, which uses special configurations of magnets to generate electrical energy from sound. Computer simulations have indicated the device could work, and Malaysian loudspeaker manufacturer Dai-ichi is offering help to design the device to bring down production costs.

Other partners working on engine design, manufacturing and distribution are The University of Manchester, City University London and Queen Mary, and the University of London. The project is funded by grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Germany’s Department of International Development has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide funding to test the stove in southern Africa, and the charity Practical Action has launched field trials in Nepal and Kenya.

The project is seeking sponsorship to fund additional on-site testing in other countries, including Tajikistan.

More field trials are set to begin in 2010, with full production of the Score generator slated sometime after 2012.

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