NARI Stove and Lantern on home brew Ethanol

Every so often there are things that just make a lot of sense. Yet for some reason, don’t ‘catch on’. IMHO, this is one of them.

NARI is an Indian organization that works on things that poor folks in India need. Often in poor farm communities and things folks there can make or do for themselves. (IIRC the first project of theirs that I ran into, was a biodiesel powered seed press. So ‘locals’ could use Jatropha seeds they grew, to extract the oil, and run it in their own machinery. Bringing “bootstrap” technology to the Indian poor farm family.)

In this case, they ask “What fuel is easily made in the countryside by rural folks? How do we make that usable for them for cooking and light?” The answer is 50% Ethanol (100 proof) locally distilled alcohol. Normally alcohol stoves and lanterns (there are a few) expect nearly pure alcohol (and often methanol, industrially made).

The design of these instruments would be straight forward. Larger heat absorber for the ‘gas generator’ stage. Larger jet. Materials that stand up to hot alcohol (steel / stainless steel depending on temperature). There is a precursor technology already known. The Petromax Lantern (and some followons like the Britelyt) have a ‘cooking adapter’ option. But, IMHO, they are a bit too tall, skinny, and unstable. Then again, I live in earthquake country ;-)

Here is the video showing the appliances in use. The “lamp / cooker” would be particularly beneficial for very poor folks. It has a large alcohol tank, so is used much like a propane lamp or stove. Not a lot of hand pumping or “fooling around with”. Just the “usual” put a dribble of liquid in the preheater / primer tray and light it.

I found the PDF of an article describing their effort as well, complete with CO levels, efficiency, etc. etc.

This very short video shows lighting / using the dedicated stove:

The also have a ‘portable lantern’ much like a regular Coleman. You can see it to the right of the table in the last part of the first video (the one about the lantern / cooker).

The “punch line” seems to be that it is legally discouraged to ferment and distill your own ethanol in India, so they need some kind of ‘legal changes’ before this could be widely used. So until that happens, more women go blind cooking over dung fires, more children get lung problems, more kerosene and wood get burned (in the less poor areas), and things stay as they are.

Personally, I’d buy one of these if they had a ‘buy one’ page. Common kerosene stoves of similar size sell for $US 50 to $90. I’m sure that’s more than the prices they are quoting as likely in Rupees… but have no idea how much more.

Why was I looking?

I was looking for an E85 capable stove. I found 2, but both are very expensive and small ‘expedition’ camping stoves for ‘flexible fuel choices’ – i.e. everything from Diesel to Kerosene to Gasoline to… Which stoves are typically fussy, smoke or smell on heavy fuels, and often require a wrench and small parts swapping to change fuels. Also the Britelyte folks claim to have one for Big Bucks – like $150 or some such – but everything is marked as ‘available April’… So one wonders what they do with the sales now if they have no product for 2 months?

I’ve also seen ‘mixed reviews’ of both their products and services (despite them looking cool and having a slick web presentation…) While this article about how great the new improved flex fuel lantern is on ethanol makes me wonder why I want a lantern that on Kerosene can spit and break the glass if the mantle breaks (as they ALWAYS do eventually).

7. Alcohol reflects less heat than kerosene, thus the lantern does not throw off as much heat and much less heat radiates sideways. The mantle stays more robust in the alcohol lantern than the kerosene lantern, thus breaking less and requiring less frequent replacement. If the mantle breaks during operation, it will not spray alcohol out like kerosene to the glass and cause the glass to break. The alcohol lantern will continue to operate with a broken mantle, and without the danger of breaking the glass.

I note in passing that their ‘top page’ of their “store” lists ‘best selling’ items including:

500CP/600CP-BriteLyt – Petromax Mantles – 500CP NEW GREEN STRIPE Mantles for large lantern-Part 4-1-500CP Price : $0.99 Click to view

Lead washer-Part 90 Price : $0.75 Click to view

500CP /350CP Clear BriteLyt Glass-Part 74-500CP Price : $10.00 Click to view

Now maybe they were just a bit ‘in-artful’ in praising their new lantern line… and maybe folks just break a lot of glass in rough use, but…

So it looks to me like the folks in India could start making and selling some of their version, even if not to Indian farmers… Britelyt is ‘sold out’ at $150 each, for a few months at least. Just saying…

Why I Care

More than once I’ve used my “camping equipment” for a variety of “emergency” events.

As “the government” has started a jihad on ‘regular old gasoline” constantly fooling around with the formula, then mandating 10% ethanol, now going to 15% “soon”; I’m ever less convinced my old “Coleman Dual Fuel” lantern can swallow that new swill.

As a consequence I recently bought one of their Kerosene Lanterns (Thanks folks!) and I’m swapping over my emergency gear to be kerosene based. Yesterday I ordered a one burner Primus type -not brand – kerosene stove too. So as of now (well, when the order gets here ;-) I’ll have an ‘all kerosene’ set of ‘lamp and stove’ and a jug of kerosene in the storage shed out back. Stuff that keeps nearly forever and isn’t being screwed around with so much. (It can also use #1 Diesel and Jet-A / JP-4 in a pinch… so if it’s a REAL disaster, I can use mil spec “one fuel”… ) So stove and lantern for less than just a lantern from Britelyt.

(As I already have the ‘Dual fuel” from Coleman, I don’t really need the ‘multi-fuel’ feature all in one lamp…)

But as fuel costs in California are headed stratospheric, I’m also a bit interested in ‘other ways’ of making heat and light in general. It is already cheaper to heat with gasoline than to use electric resistance heaters, and it is cheaper to cook on a gasoline camp stove than to use electricity. At some point, we, too, may well be ‘third world’ enough to be in the “make your own stove hooch” category… (No, no sarc. No smiley. It’s really headed that way.)

For now, it is still cheaper to use Natural Gas than anything else, so I’m changing the kitchen stove over to a nice 4 burner nat-gas unit “as time permits’. ( I already have the stove top. And gas is pre-plumbed to the location.) Unless / until natural gas triples in price, it’s optimal for me. Then again, I never thought I’d see our electricity at 30 cents / kW-hr ‘on the margin’ and a tariff registered for $1/2 ‘on the way’… Not too long ago were were at a dime / kW-hr…

So the idea of a stove and lantern that run on ‘home made hooch distilled’ is just an attractive technology.

I’m very interested, too, in anything that helps “poor farmers” and especially ‘poor 3rd world wives’ have a better life. Even little things, like that extra free hour from cooking the dinner in a ‘tube’ cooker over the lamp, or the cut in fuel costs from using the same fuel for lighting and cooking, can make the difference between slowly rising out of poverty and slow crushing poverty decent. For many folks in the 3rd World, the cost of fuel to cook and light for a day is more than they can earn in cash

On my “someday list” has been “make a gas generator for a Coleman Lantern” that works with E85. (It’s fairly cheap, not as nasty as gasoline, and not being ‘screwed around with’ as much as ‘regular unleaded’). I have to think that these folks Lantern is already 90% of the way there. It has the added heat and size. Most likely all it needs is a smaller jet.

So for those reasons, I find their ‘tech’ interesting. Good for “the Aw Shit”; be it a natural disaster or one made by our government “helping” us into poverty.

By adding water, you can cause the ethanol to separate out of E85. That this lantern runs on the watered down fuel makes that E85 an economical option. (The additive ‘crap’ stays in the ethanol, so fuel use only…)

If nothing else, I think the simple fact that they ARE working on this problem, and HAVE come up with a very workable and quite reasonable solution needs more ‘advertizing’. Even if not in India, there are many poor folks in the world would could use this ‘tech’ for the same benefits.

Heck, if I lived on a farm in the USA I’d be tempted to contact these folks for a contracted batch of product. Some for my own use, and some for “self sufficiency advocates” here. There are some folks who make their own alcohol fuel already. Being able to cook and light with it would be an added feature.

So take a minute to watch the videos. Think just a bit about who could benefit from knowing this. Maybe someone will talk to someone else and get something going ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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5 Responses to NARI Stove and Lantern on home brew Ethanol

  1. adrianvance says:

    As a chemist let me tell you that ethanol is about as poor a choice for a fuel, and especially as a gasoline additive, as one could make. Not only does the three stage distillation needed for motor fuel render it grossly energy negative, but the stuff is hygroscopic, has a three week shelf life in use after which it will destroy the engine in which it is used in a few months. As a cooking fuel it makes only a little more sense, but the carbon monoxide output can be very dangerous if there is not good ventilation which is almost always not present in the winter even in India. Petroleum is ideal in many ways and we will have all we ever need if we can [SNIP!: “get rid of” instead…] all the “greens.”

    [Reply: There is a world of difference between motor fuel and stove fuel uses. This article is about stove fuel use. Alcohol as stove fuel is one of the best out there. Largely based on the esthetics of it. Partly on the safety. It can be put out with water. It doesn’t stink (nor persistently like kerosene or Diesel). Spills evaporate from fabrics like tents and floors. On boats, methanol vapors rise and explosion hazards are much much lower (every so often a boat blows up from gasoline or propane fumes in the bilge. My sailboat had a methanol galley for just that reason. It is common and preferred). It has no ‘questionable additives’ like gasoline that you might not want in your food. It is available just about everywhere. There are no empty pressure bottles to carry all trip long and then dispose. The alcohol does not ‘soot up’ either the air or the bottom of your pots like the heavier fuels. Oh, and it is relatively cheap. (The camping LP gas ‘canisters’ can be $1/ ounce…) E85 loses many of those features, but it is ‘crazy cheap’, so some soot is ‘worth it’… For engines, I’d rather run alcohol ‘neat’ as they do at the race tracks. In that use the power available is stellar (which is WHY they run it in drag racers…along with engine cooling that is critical at those power levels) and you can use higher compression. That it is stupid to feed food to engines is quite true; which is why I’d rather we used coal derived alcohol…which is very cheap and energetically quite reasonable. One can also use nuclear process heat to make it, so can ‘put a nuke in your fuel tank’ easily. Oh, and ethanol is modestly non-toxic when compared to the other cooking fuels. One can, after all, eat it. (though not E85). Oh, and you can make ‘crazy small and light’ stoves for alcohol with no moving parts. All that is why alcohol stoves are among the most favored for “3 season” ultralight camping. FWIW, I own somewhere around 4 of them and they are among my favorites. Self pressurizing, clean, and very light weight. Pretty brass too; though lots of folks make their own from old drink cans. It’s an obscure art form, in a way. This one I particularly like: But back at this Indian usage: As they are NOT putting it in a motor, but into a home lamp and cooker, and THE major design goal is “make your own fuel”, it is just about ideal there, too. When you are a poor Indian farmer with some grain, but no money, and get nearly no money for your grain, being able to use some to cook and light your home and NOT needing to get cash is a major feature. In many cases, they have waste products that have zero market value but can make good alcohol, and in those cases it is an even better solution. In short “what is the best fuel” depends entirely on local context, personal needs and resources, local markets, and particular application. That is why there has never been a ‘narrowing in’ on a smaller number of cooking fuels in stoves nor lanterns. Any / all of: Kerosene, Gasoline, Methanol, Ethanol, Isopropanol, Butane, Propane, Iso-Butane, Jet-A, Diesel, Avgas, wax, Odorless Mineral Spirits, Naptha, wood, coal, charcoal, found biomass .i.e leaves, and more are all used. Often by the same person for different trips. (For example, Kerosene or Gasoline for dead of winter back country where high heat is THE most important, alcohol for a summer several day hike where esthetics and weight are more important, iso-Butane for a spring trip with convenience for a couple of days.) For a ‘3rd world farmers stove and light’, DIY 50% ethanol is a great choice, purchased OPEC kerosene requiring foreign exchange not so much. But putting Iowa corn into California cars instead of mouths is “not so bright”, IMHO. Per CO: Did you not notice the linked article per the stove showing low CO levels? How the fuel is used matters. Per “destroying engines”, that depends entirely on how the engine was designed and was alcohol an expected fuel. I ran a lawn mover on Methanol for several years with no problems, just as a test case, for example. We’ve run E10 or 10% Ethanol is just about every car in the nation for a decade or two now. I think you are overstating things, as the cars are not all dead… -E.M.Smith]

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    There are three interesting pictures in one area of this posting here:

    The lower one is a ‘typical’ sailing galley with methanol where “put out the fire with water” and “no bilge vapor explosion” are highly important. Though my galley had a pressure pump. Then above that is the brass commercial light weight stove. Fits in a shirt pocket WITH fuel! (I have the Esbet, but same idea). To the let is a ‘home made’ stove from old drink cans. Yup, those are burner flames you are seeing. The “device” is two bottoms of cans stuck together, pin holes around the edge, and a fill port in the top. (One class just lays a penny over the fill hole to close it and are called ‘penny stoves’.) These do not hold their fuel in storage, so a fuel bottle is needed. Still, the whole stoves ways fraction of an ounce. Down in the ‘teens’ of grams.

    For a ‘day hike’ into the woods, one of these with a couple of ounce bottle of alcohol, a tin cup and beverage mix. Hot coffee / tea / cocoa for nearly nothing in weight and with very nice esthetics (no smell to speak of, clean hot flame, no soot on the Tin Cup, zero ‘clean up’…)

    Heck, you can even make ‘cup of noodles’ with it on the same fuel load… While the other folks have a cold PBJ, you can have Shrimp Noodles with hot tea…

    Besides, they are just so darned cute!

  3. Speed says:

    It’s interesting how the language has changed between the original published research and the promotional material from NARI.

    “In rural areas of developing countries there is a substantial amount of illicit liquor production. Production and consumption of this liquor produces social tensions in the households and is the cause of innumerable marriage breakups in rural areas since mostly men drink and beat up their wives. The illicit alcohol production takes place in makeshift backyard and rudimentary distillation units which produce alcohol with 45-60% (w/w) ethanol/water concentration.

    “Hence it was thought prudent to develop an ethanol stove running on such a mixture so that it can solve the twin problems of drinking and cooking. Thus the woman of the house will get a very clean fuel for cooking and she will not have to go long distances for collecting firewood. This can also help solve the drinking problem of her husband. At the same time the production of such low concentration ethanol can easily be done in the rural setting through a simple distillation unit consisting of a flash evaporation system. This simple system can also save the energy for distillation of ethanol.

    Click to access ethstove.pdf

    … becomes …
    “In rural areas of developing countries, a substantial amount of illicit liquor production takes place in makeshift backyard and rudimentary distillation units, which produce alcohol with 45-60% (w/w) ethanol-water concentration. This alcohol is mainly used for drinking. The use of this as fuel in the ethanol stove and lanterns can hopefully help solve both the problems of drinking and rural household fuel.

    This explains in part why they are promoting the use some fuel (wood?) to distill alcohol rather than using it directly to cook, light and heat.

  4. Kent Gatewood says:

    What would the kw cost of a natural gas generator be?

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    You want me to let my wife BURN my hooch to cook dinner!!
    Maybe I’ll make a little extra for her use, but there ARE priorities.

    Actually the neatest Ethanol maker that I ever saw was a small Fordson tractor.
    Back during the Carter fuel disaster, a Tennessee farm adviser converted his tractor to distill grain “beer” to ethanol fuel for the tractor. He added a secondary radiator in front of the primary radiator to collect and condense the vapor from the “beer” that he had filled the block and primary radiator with. After 4 hours he would drain the secondary radiator to refuel the tractor and drain the tractor cooling system of spent “beer” that was then replaced with new “beer”. When the revenuers charged him for having an unlicensed still the judge threw out the charges as it was his tractor, not a still! 8-) pg

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