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 ;-)