The $30 wood-fired refrigerator

You’ve heard of the $100 laptop. Meet the $30 stove/refrigerator/generator combo. Scientists from a consortium of UK universities have come up with a novel solution for food storage and preparation in developing countries. Using thermoacoustic technology, the team of scientists is developing a device that acts as a refrigerator, cooker, and power generator at the ...

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601858_070517_score_05.jpg

You've heard of the $100 laptop. Meet the $30 stove/refrigerator/generator combo.

Scientists from a consortium of UK universities have come up with a novel solution for food storage and preparation in developing countries. Using thermoacoustic technology, the team of scientists is developing a device that acts as a refrigerator, cooker, and power generator at the same time, and is powered by biomass fuels such as wood that are locally available. Led by Paul Riley at the University of Nottingham, the SCORE (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity) project has been granted $4 million to develop the device.

So how exactly does it work? Riley explains:

You’ve heard of the $100 laptop. Meet the $30 stove/refrigerator/generator combo.

Scientists from a consortium of UK universities have come up with a novel solution for food storage and preparation in developing countries. Using thermoacoustic technology, the team of scientists is developing a device that acts as a refrigerator, cooker, and power generator at the same time, and is powered by biomass fuels such as wood that are locally available. Led by Paul Riley at the University of Nottingham, the SCORE (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity) project has been granted $4 million to develop the device.

So how exactly does it work? Riley explains:

[B]urning wood heats a gas-filled pipe at one end. The gas moves from the hot part, where it expands, to the cold part, where it contracts. The pipe then resonates rather like an organ pipe.”

The acoustic pressure waves this creates are then harnessed to produce electricity, so SCORE doesn’t need an external electricity source.

For the two billion people in the world who still use open fires as their primary cooking method, this is potentially great news. And considering that 93 percent of the energy generated by these fires is wasted, and the smoke can lead to serious health problems, the device also provides environmental and health benefits. Riley hopes that the stove will be commercially available within four years, adding, “We are hoping to build a million a year after year five – that’s the aspiration – and the price target we’ve set ourselves is between 15 and 20 pounds ($30-40) per unit.” He also hopes that ultimately the technology will be accessible enough for the devices to be produced cheaply by local populations.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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