Cook stove designs aid developing nations

Stick Stove
Taro Nagano’s Stick Stove design challenges notions of cook stoves.
LO stove
Ryan Bookhamer’s design, LO, a sleek, bright-green unit, is durable, lightweight and efficient.

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell and a Japanese kerosene stove manufacturer, Toyotomi, challenged international designers, engineers and innovators to create stoves to benefit low-income households in developing countries.

“Environmental and social needs can be addressed through innovation and entrepreneurial solutions,” said Mark Milstein, clinical professor of management and director of the center. “The winners’ designs illustrate how design can significantly impact lives in creative ways.”

Designers in the United States and from 13 countries in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia were challenged to envision creative designs for the Cook Stove Design Competition. The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise awarded first prize to U.S. designer Ryan Bookhamer; second prize to Japanese freelance designer Taro Nagano; and third prize to Indian freelance designer Uday Kiran.

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, more than 3 billion people burn biomass fuels, such as wood and dung, inside their homes. This results in poor indoor air quality, which is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths a year, affecting mostly women and children. In addition to health issues, burning biomass fuels leads to a variety of environmental issues, such as depletion of forests and production of greenhouse gases.

In an effort to advance progress in cook stoves, Japanese kerosene-stove manufacturer Toyotomi partnered with the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise to promote innovation in cleaner, more reliable and affordable cook stoves.

“This competition was inspiring for the Toyotomi design team,” said Yukihiro Oguchi, executive director of Toyotomi research and development. “As we consider entering new markets, the competition was extremely useful in helping us think more broadly about the concepts and functions of cook stoves that may be valuable in emerging markets.”

Bookhamer’s design, LO, a sleek, bright-green unit, was noted for being durable, lightweight and efficient. The LO unit holds a single kerosene tank for ease of transport and cleaning. The judges were impressed with its simple design, which requires few parts, making it easy to manufacture and affordable.

According to the judges, Nagano’s Stick Stove design was “inspiring” and challenged notions of cook stoves. The stove focuses on the function of the burner and has no grill for pots or kettles. It allows users to continue using traditional stoves that burn biomass by simply replacing the biomass with this clean kerosene burner shaped like a stick.

Stoves are typically designed around the use of one particular fuel, but third-place winner, Kiran, took a different approach. His Kayla Stove design allows the use of various fuels, enabling the stove to be adaptable to most locations. It also provides the user the ability to choose the fuel that is most readily available and affordable on any given day. 

Shannon Dortch is associate director, public and media relations at Johnson.

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