Reengineering Cooking with an Inexpensive Pellet Stove

    Author Name(s)

    Maximilian Seligman 

    Additional Author(s)

    Daniel Dominguez, Jackson Seligman, Enrique Garcia, Dr. Brian Rasnow

    Faculty Advisor(s)

    Dr. Brian Rasnow


    Global crises challenge us to reassess our research efforts. As our survival dictates decarbonizing energy sources, we’ve begun exploring technologies to improve cooking. Cooking accounts for 90% of the carbon-based energy used by 2.5 billion (poor) people, and causes ~3 million premature deaths per year from indoor air pollution. When the COVID-19 pandemic paused a hybrid photovoltaic/solar-thermal oven prototype, we began exploring how to make an inexpensive, efficient and low emission biofuel stove that each of us could work on at our homes.

    Biofuels offer exceptionally high energy densities and are readily available. Making them long and clean burning and efficient requires feedback control of the fuel and air sources. We have thus focused on pelletized fuel and an Arduino monitoring and controlling fuel delivery and air supply. We’ve first focused on a radically inexpensive method to automatically deliver pellet fuel to a combustion chamber from a soda bottle reservoir. We’ve explored concepts for an ignition system (using paper and a match). A ~1W computer fan “turbo-charges” the stove and may also cool a thermoelectric generator (TEG) that powers the Arduino as well as accessories like an LED light and cell phone charger.

    The combination of efficiency, durability, and cost (<$25) that we are seeking far exceeds any commercial solutions that we are aware of. We recognize that optimizing a stove without considering the pot and the food inside the pot (and the sourcing of pellets) will likely not optimize the entire cooking enterprise, rather a much more holistic systems-based approach will ultimately be adopted. We will discuss some of these aspects, and we’re also seeking collaboration from experts outside the engineering fields.


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