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Research / Discovery

Students at heart of latest Envirofit technology unveiled Tuesday

July 7, 2009

Work gets done the old-fashioned way at the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory: People sit around the table and talk to each other or pop in and out of offices sharing information.

Spirit of collaboration

Sounds simple enough. But Morgan DeFoort, co-director of the lab, says that spirit of collaboration among faculty and students at Colorado State University is what led to the newest Envirofit International stove technology unveiled Tuesday.

(Photo: Tim Bauer, Nathan Lorenz, Morgan DeFoort, and Ron Bills, Envirofit CEO) 

Bryan Willson, director of the lab and a mechanical engineering professor, started the cookstoves program at the university and is co-founder of Envirofit. Now DeFoort leads a team of undergraduate and graduate students who developed a proprietary alloy for the cookstove’s combustion chamber as well as an orifice plate that helps the stoves reduce smoke and toxic emissions by up to 80 percent. The ring creates turbulence that directs unburned gases into the center of the combustion chamber.

Emissions reductions without added cost

“The trick is that it’s very durable and low cost,” said DeFoort, who first joined the lab as a master’s student in 2000 and will receive his doctorate at CSU this summer. “We got big emissions reductions without added cost to the stove.”

The Colorado State University Research Foundation, along with Envirofit and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has a patent pending on the technology. Listed on the patent application from CSU are DeFoort, Willson, Anthony Marchese, an assistant mechanical engineering professor and Dan Lionberg, a graduate student.

Working with the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University and the Materials Science and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Envirofit researchers developed the EnviroFlame Combustion System, the heart of the new line of Envirofit cookstoves, which is a combination of the alloy and orifice plate. The alloy adds significant durability to the stove and enables the use of the orifice, which reduces emissions on the stove.

Revolutionary change enables expansion to meet increased demand

Envirofit, a technology leader using sustainable, scalable business models to solve global health and environmental problems, on Tuesday introduced the Envirofit G-Series, which features the EnviroFlame Combustion System and Envirofit Cooking System - a revolutionary change to the traditional cookstoves paradigm that enables Envirofit to enter new global markets and meet increased demand around the world.

In addition to the research and development behind stove performance, Envirofit is also launching the Envirofit Cooking System. After purchasing the core G-3300 single-pot cookstove, this integrated system allows customers to purchase matched accessory products that expand their cooking options and improve cooking efficiency. For example, the Envirofit G-3355 accessory adds a second cooking surface and chimney option, while the G-33LPG accessory gives users the option to use a second fuel source - LPG. With expansion into new global markets, the Envirofit Cooking System allows Envirofit to quickly develop appropriate accessories to match the varied cooking styles of customers around the world.

Black carbon prevented from entering atmosphere

Since unveiling its first line of clean cookstoves in May 2008, Envirofit has sold more than 60,000 cookstoves in India. Over the next five years these 60,000 cookstoves could keep more than 400,000 tons of CO2 and more than 85,000 kg of black carbon from entering the atmosphere, while garnering savings in excess of 900 million rupees ($18 million) for some of India's lowest-income consumers.

(Photo courtesy of Envirofit: Cookstove customer)

The four founding partners of Envirofit all have ties to CSU: Bryan Willson, director of the laboratory and mechanical engineering professor; Paul Hudnut, instructor in the College of Business; and two former students of Willson’s, Tim Bauer and Nathan Lorenz, now vice president of Operations and vice president of Engineering, respectively, for Envirofit.

The laboratory serves as a subcontractor to Envirofit, which obtained a $25 million commitment from the Shell Foundation to design, build and disseminate 10 million cookstoves to the developing world.

Students developed prototype within 24-hours

The work in the lab can go from idea to design and implementation overnight. In this case, students developed a prototype using computer software, cut the steel pieces needed for the cookstove on a waterjet donated by Flow International and tested emissions from the redesigned cookstove - all within a 24-hour period, DeFoort said.

“Bryan brought the problem into the lab and laid a huge amount of foundational work – he challenges us and questions us and keeps pushing us for improvements,” DeFoort said. “You have Anthony who has done years of work in fundamental combustion, and my experience at the laboratory and doing stoves work.

“Rather than work in an ivory tower somewhere, everyone’s sitting around the table. It’s amazing how far you can go.”

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336