Cornell Reveals Winner of Sustainable Cook Stove Design Competition

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Bill Gates wants to reinvent the toilet, but Cornell has its sights set on the cook stove.

Cornell University’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (CSGE) recently partnered with Japanese kerosene stove manufacturer Toyotomi to facilitate innovation in portable stove design. The two organizations challenged designers around the world to create stoves that will benefit low-income households in the developing world.

This week, Cornell revealed the winners of its Cook Stove Design Competition, which culled entries from the U.S., along with 13 countries in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

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

The first prize was awarded to American entrant Ryan Bookhamer, whose neon-green “LO” stove holds a single kerosene tank for ease of transport and cleaning. According to the judges, its few parts make for a simple, affordable manufacturing process, and an easy-to-use functionality.

Second prize went to Japanese freelance designer Taro Nagano, who developed the highly mobile “Stick Stove.” Quite literally a stick, the Stick Stove is almost like a giant lighter—it has no grill, hot plate, or grate for supporting pots.

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The Stick Stove [left] and the LO [right].

The third prize went to Uday Kiran of India. His “Kayla Stove,” which can use a variety of fuel types, is more adaptable to certain locations and circumstances than traditional designs.

Biomass fuels—such as wood, charcoal, and dung—constitute the vast majority of fuels in the developing world; more than 2.5 billion people burn these toxic substances, causing poor indoor air quality and a flood of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

As a result, the IEA is actively promoting more efficient use of biomass fuels in developing nations. It is also encouraging people to adopt modern cooking fuels and technologies like those unveiled by Cornell and Toyotomi.

“This competition was inspiring for the Toyotomi design team,” said Yukihiro Oguchi, executive director of Toyotomi R&D, in a statement. “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.”