Reverse Innovation to Protect Health and Climate: Advances in Cleaner Biomass Combustion
for Household Energy in the Developing and Developed World
Biomass energy is the oldest form of solar energy storage, and can be a renewable, local, affordable, low-carbon fuel if harvested sustainably and burned cleanly. Today nearly 40% of the world relies on woody fuels as their primary source of energy, with the majority using rudimentary three-stone fires for
cooking and heating. Here at home, approximately 7.8 million Americans are using uncertified, polluting wood stoves to heat their homes. Both of these applications lead to health-related concerns about air quality and contributions to climate change, and many policymakers are pushing a shift away from wood
for this reason. However, wood and other biomass can and should remain in the low-carbon energy mix, especially for low-income and rural users – the key is learning how to burn it more cleanly. This talk highlights how innovations generated to meet the stringent emissions targets for biomass cookstoves in
the developing world are now being applied to biomass heating in the US through a multidisciplinary, multi-organizational effort led by Oregon State University and supported by the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Nordica MacCarty is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and Richard and Gretchen Evans Scholar of Humanitarian Engineering at Oregon State University, as well as executive director of the non-profit Aprovecho Research Center. Her research is focused on the development of technologies
and tools to increase and quantify the environmental and social impacts of household energy projects in the developing and developed world, primarily for cooking and heating. She has authored over 40 peer-reviewed articles and received Oregon State’s 2020 International Service Award and the Lemelson
Foundation’s Elevating Impact Award. Her research and teaching efforts are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, VentureWell program, and other private and university foundations. She also serves as acting director of Oregon State’s humanitarian engineering program, faculty co-advisor for Oregon State’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, and associate editor for the journal Energy for Sustainable Development.
The 2023 College of Engineering Faculty Lecture Series features lectures by faculty members who are leading groundbreaking research in areas such as clean energy, autonomous robots, tsunami resilience, and more. See the registration link for complete details.