Three In One: Stove, Refrigerator, and Generator

A collaboration of researchers from around the world has designed a device that can serve as a stove, refrigerator, and electric generator all in one. Named SCORE (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity), the appliance is the first to use thermoacoustic technology--or noise--to convert biomass into energy to power the device.

SCORE is intended to be used in poor African and Asian communities where access to power is extremely limited. In many homes, people use wood fires to cook their food, which not only releases harmful smoke in enclosed environments, but also has a very low efficiency compared with modern appliances.

To activate the thermoacoustic appliance, you just add wood, which releases heat as it burns. This heat then travels through specially shaped piping and produces sound, somewhat like air being blown through a whistle. At 50 Hz, it sounds like a low hum to human ears, although most of the sound will be contained inside the pipes.

For the fridge and generator, a linear alternator (which acts like a loud speaker in reverse) can convert the sound into electricity. For the stove, this method of burning wood would be healthier than an open fire, although not completely smoke-free.

Among the collaborators, Los Alamos Laboratories have played a significant role, as well as institutions in the UK including the University of Nottingham, University of Manchester, Imperial College London and Queen Mary, University of London. GP Acoustics, a high-performance audio equipment company in Hong Kong, is also offering its support.

Mark Dodd, Research Manager at GP Acoustics, said that the company is "delighted that technology originally created for the leisure market is being used to help improve the lives of people in developing countries."

With the help of civil organizations, governments, and universities in developing countries, the SCORE project also plans to enable local businesses in many communities to manufacture and repair the appliances. Due to the simple design and few moving parts, the appliances should not be difficult to build or require a great deal of maintenance and repair.

The researchers hope to have this revolutionary stove available within the next five years. For the two billion people who use fires to cook their food, this sounds like an efficient tool to satisfy a number of needs.

Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger