Pinoy inventor wins Rolex Award for low-cost stove

Published by rudy Date posted on January 16, 2009

A Filipino professor has received the 2008 Rolex Award for Enterprise for developing a new technology that transforms the waste from rice production into clean, affordable cooking fuel.

Alexis Belonio, associate professor of Agricultural Engineering at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City, was one of the five Associate Laureates named by Rolex and presented with $50,000. He also received a Rolex chronometer.

He developed a low-cost stove powered by rice husks aimed at reducing fuel costs and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 48-year-old inventor’s design, a stream of oxygen converts the burning rice husk fuel to a combustible blend of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane gases, yielding a hot, blue flame similar to that produced by burning natural gas.

Started in 1976, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise have supported pioneering work in science and medicine, technology and innovation, exploration and discovery, the environment and cultural heritage.

“I will spend the Rolex Award money on promoting and sharing the technology with others for free, as widely as I can. I will focus on disseminating it throughout the world. I will produce more publications to show people how to do it,” Belonio said in an interview.

According to reports, Belonio’s early stoves, made in the Philippines, sold at $100 each and were too expensive for poor families. However, further research and development conducted in Indonesia significantly reduced the retail price of the stove to only $25.

“This was achieved by simplifying the design of the stove in terms of operation, materials and fabrication. Thousands of cookers are now being manufactured by companies cooperating with Belonio in the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia,” reports said.

By exploiting a freely available waste product at a time of soaring energy prices, the stoves can save a family of rice farmers about $150 a year in fuel bills, a huge benefit for families that live on $2 or $3 a day, Belonio said.

He said a ton of rice husks contains the same energy as 415 liters of petrol or 378 liters of kerosene.

Belonio said his stoves reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate toxic fumes inside houses.

“Even the char left after burning can be recycled to improve farm soils or to form bio-coal briquettes,” he said.–Helen Flores, Philippine Star

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