The £2m ($4.1m) Score (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity) project is bringing together experts from across the world to develop a wood-powered generator capable of both cooking and cooling food.
The product is a cooker, a fridge and a power generator in one. The designers believe it will have a huge impact on the lives of people in the world's poorest communities.
Across the world, 2bn people use open fires as their primary cooking method. These fires have been found to be highly inefficient, with 93% of the energy generated lost. Also smoke from the fires, mostly used in enclosed spaces, can cause health problems.
To power the appliance, the researchers are using thermoacoustic technology – the use of sound waves – to convert biomass fuels, such as wood, into energy.
The wood is burned to produce heat, which then goes into a specially-shaped pipe which produces areas of high and low gas pressure in such a way as to generate sound (in similar way to a singing kettle).
The sound energy is then converted into electricity by a linear alternator (a giant microphone which absorbs the sound). The electricity then powers the device.
This is the first time that thermoacoustic technology has been used to heat as well as cool in one device using biomass fuel.
The project's partners include US-based Los Alamos Laboratories, GP Acoustics of Hong Kong, and, in Britain, the University of Nottingham, the University of Manchester, Imperial College London and the University of London.
The project extends from researching engine design to the manufacture and distribution of the stove in the developing world.
Score project director Paul Riley of the the University of Nottingham, told FoodProcessingAfrica/DevTech that he expects to have a working model of the unit within 12 months, test units in three years, and volume manufacture (of up to one million devices per year) by 2012.
On how the device will be sold and distributed in developing countries, he said: "We are generating a network of contacts to do this. These contacts range from a large oil company to individual outlets within countries. An important part of the research is to stimulate new businesses in the developing countries from the sale and maintenance of the stove and its produce (electricity and ice). Our target price for the unit for a single dwelling is £20 ($41)."
He said people/businesses in developing countries which have manufacturing or training capacity, or people at universities who can offer support for Score, should contact him.
"We are also looking for people who can provide matching funding within the developing countries," he said.
Riley: Tel +44-115-846-8173 or mobile +44-7973-426 379 or home: +44-115-9305414; Paul.Riley@nottingham.ac.uk ; website: www.score.uk.com