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"Our ultimate goal is to deliver clean, affordable energy access to people all around the world." —Jonathan Cedar, Co-Founder, BioLite, Inc.

BioLite: Clean, safe, simple cookstoves that generate electricity, too

In places where wood is the primary source of fuel, the smoke from cooking over open fires causes four million deaths a year. BioLite developed a high-efficiency woodstove that powers its own exhaust fan to improve combustion and reduce smoke— with energy to spare for cell phones and other small devices.

The challenge

Reduce emissions from cooking fires.

The solution

Reduce smoke and generate electricity from burning wood.

Healthier cooking with a side order of electricity

Roughly three billion people worldwide spend a disproportionate amount of their time and income seeking out electricity to power portable lights and mobile phones. This "energy poverty" also forces them to cook over smoky open fires that create enough pollution to cause four million premature deaths each year—more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. The problem is serious enough to drive the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a United Nations Foundation-led initiative to bring cleaner, more efficient cooking technologies to 100 million people by 2020.

Although cookstoves are available with built-in fans to boost combustion efficiency and reduce harmful emissions, these fans require an external source of electricity—the very reason they aren't already in use in the communities that need them most.

The BioLite HomeStove, developed by Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond, powers its internal fan with electricity generated from the heat of the fire. In addition to improving airflow for more efficient combustion, which reduces smoke, this patent-pending technology also generates enough surplus electricity to charge cell phones, LED lights, and other devices via a USB port—a boon in poorly electrified rural areas. While holding down full-time jobs, Cedar and Drummond developed the stove in their spare time, originally intending it for recreational uses like camping. However, their prototype won the top prize for lowest emissions at the 2009 ETHOS conference, a gathering focused on creating cleaner, safer, easier-to-use stoves for the developing world.

Jonathan Cedar—CEO and director of BioLite

  • Now you're cooking

    The BioLite CampStove, a version of the HomeStove made for the recreational market, is available through the website as well as through retail partnerships with global leaders in the outdoor industry such as REI, Montbell, and Mountain Equipment Coop. The company also has recently introduced a combination charging and lighting system, the BioLite NanoGrid, which charges from the stove or any USB port. The company's Outdoor Recreational division has shipped to more than 70 countries worldwide.

    BioLite’s Emerging Market division currently operates in India, Uganda, and Ghana, where it is working with the Canadian government and Columbia University on a National Institutes of Health-funded program examining the effects of smoke and particulate exposure on children's health.

    The company intends to ship one million HomeStoves by 2020. It also hopes to expand into other areas, such as communications and refrigeration. “Our ultimate goal is to deliver clean, affordable energy access to people all around the world,” says Cedar.

  • A new generation of energy

    See how BioLite is already bringing safer cooking and reliable electricity to villages — and campgrounds — around the world.

  • Efficient by design

    Building a high-performance stove requires BioLite to balance performance, durability, and cost. The company used Autodesk® Simulation CFD software, a component of Autodesk® Simulation 360, to model heat transfer within multiple design iterations without building physical prototypes. A lifecycle analysis conducted by Stanford University's School of Engineering found that this enabled BioLite's stove to achieve performance benefits that outweigh the energy usage associated with manufacturing.

    The design team also used Autodesk® 3ds Max® Design visualization software to create photorealistic digital prototypes and arrive at a design that is both efficient and visually appealing.

    BioLite also used Autodesk Inventor® and Autodesk Fusion 360™, both part of the Autodesk® Product Design Suite Ultimate, for rapid model iterations and geometry fixes prior to simulation, and has experimented with Autodesk Moldflow® 360 for plastics molding. BioLite received the software as a member of the Autodesk® Cleantech Partner Program.

Q&A with BioLite

Why is the BioLite HomeStove revolutionary?

“The design of the BioLite HomeStove addresses both the challenge of traditional cookfires and a broader set of energy needs. By offering co-generated electricity, we serve household decision-makers who often own a mobile phone but don't have easy access to a power outlet. We also offer them long-term cost-savings with dramatically improved efficiency that requires less fuel. Finally, our market-based approach automatically builds long-term adoption and impact into how we measure success as an organization. We follow a business model in which we incubate core technologies with the potential to empower millions of families living in energy poverty around the world, then commercialize the resulting products in developed and developing markets simultaneously. The near-term revenue generated from outdoor recreational markets gives BioLite the resources to invest in growing its business in developing markets through local sales teams and feedback to the product development team. Once the developing markets achieve critical mass, they can economically sustain themselves through customer-driven demand rather than relying on the support of sales in the developed world. The real revolution will be in successfully transitioning millions of households from a centuries-old method of cooking to a new technology that will greatly improve their quality of life.”

How does the BioLite HomeStove address the challenge of energy poverty?

“Our core audience is families who rely on smoky open fires as their main cooking source. In addition, mobile phone ownership in these communities is outpacing rates of electrification, forcing people to take long, expensive trips to charging shops just to maintain their ability to communicate. The BioLite HomeStove couples the immediate benefits of off-grid electricity with the long-term benefits of improved health and curbing climate change. It reduces emissions by 90 percent and cuts fuel consumption in half while generating power to charge personal devices such as mobile phones or LED lights. It's low-cost, high-performance, and designed to survive three or more hours of daily family cooking for up to five years.”