22 Jul 2009   |   News

Nottingham: New biomass-powered generator seeks partners

Partnership opportunity

A low-cost biomass-powered cooking stove and generator developed for use in developing countries is now ready for field testing. The developers, led by Nottingham University, are looking for partners to help trial the device, a cooking stove that also converts heat into acoustic energy and then into electricity, all in one unit.

The Stove has been developed in the £2 million Score project (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity). By developing an affordable, versatile domestic appliance, Score aims to address the energy needs of rural communities in Africa and Asia, where access to power is extremely limited.

Researchers in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nottingham University are working on the linear alternator, which turns sound energy into electricity. The system uses special configurations of magnets which generate electrical energy from sound. Computer simulations of the alternator have proved successful, and test models are currently being constructed in the department’s workshops.

The Nottingham researchers are working with Dai-ichi, one of Malaysia’s largest loudspeaker manufacturers, to bring down production costs through good design practice. Though the Score unit does not physically resemble the average loudspeaker, it is compatible with Dai-ichi’s manufacturing proceses.   

Score has been invited by Dai-ichi to exhibit at the, “Better City Better Life” EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China from May to October 2010 to showcase the technology to 70 million expected visitors.

The generator has a cost target of £20, based on the production of a million units. The unit will weigh between 10 and 20kg. The target is to generate an hour’s use per kilogram of fuel, which could be wood, dung or any other locally-available biomass material.

Manchester University, City University London and Queen Mary, University of London and the charity Practical Action are partners in the project, which covers all aspects of delivering the stove, from researching the engine design to manufacture and distribution.

Mark Johnson, professor of Advanced Power Conversion at Nottingham, said, “I am particularly pleased with the way that the Score consortium, with partners from very different technical backgrounds, has developed into a cohesive research team. We now have solutions to the fundamental technical problems and the first demonstrators delivering significant electrical power have been realised.”

The Score team is now looking for sponsorship to fund testing in the countries in which the generator will eventually be deployed. Germany’s Department of International Development (GTZ South Africa) has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide funding to test the stove in southern Africa.

Practical Action is leading field trials in Nepal and Kenya and will expand the test sites when more units are available.

Score community member Mark Loweth works in Tajikistan, one of the poorer countries in Central Asia. He has adapted a variation of a Score Stove to ensure it is suitable for use there. “We are very excited with the Score technology as it has the capability of bringing small scale electrical generation to households in the developing world,” he said.

“We plan to field test 20 units in Tajikistan when funding is available through a jointly owned, locally registered company utilising the experience and extensive local knowledge of expatriates and nationals with strong links to rural communities.”

Other members of the international Score Community are investigating how a Score Stove could best be adapted for their local environments.

South African Score community member Rynier Ferreira said, “We are adapting a Score Stove to work with paraffin (kerosene), as many rural communities in South Africa are still highly dependant on it as a major fuel source for cooking. Adapting a Score Stove for paraffin will increase not only the safety aspect for stoves using this type of fuel, but will give the people in these rural communities the additional advantage of electricity and refrigeration.”

Gorge Crowson, who is also testing the stove in southern Africa said, “We have identified a number of waste materials that can be burnt in a Score Stove and are actively seeking financial support to set up assembly plants in Southern Africa and a distribution network, once the test phase is completed.”

More units will be available for testing in field trials at the start of next year, with full production of the Score generator taking place after 2012.

The Score consortium is funded by grants from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of its initiative on energy and international development.

For more information, visit the SCORE web site: http://www.score.uk.com/research/default.aspx

Never miss an update from Science|Business:   Newsletter sign-up