Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mechanical Engineering - Cooperative Education

Research Sponsor

Dr. Ajay Mahajan

First Reader

Dr. Scott Sawyer

Second Reader

Dr. Dane Quinn



The purpose of this document is to propose and demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of substituting an open flame biomass cooking process with a closed system with the capabilities of sustaining an adequate fire. Clay ovens or “chulhas” are the traditional piece of cooking equipment used in poorer areas of the world. They are often built inside cramped one-room housing units with little or no ventilation. The emissions released from burning fuel sources such as wood, coal, or animal waste bring with them detrimental and often fatal health problems and results in approximately 1.3 million deaths per year.

The proposed method for validating the closed system involves burning a set amount of wood exposed to the environment, then attempting to replicate the burn time and temperature inside a closed steel box with appropriately designed ventilation holes. The closed steel box will have one opening to allow the necessary air for combustion to enter, and another such opening to let the exhaust leave the box. A thermodynamic model of wood combustion was used to determine the amount of air needed to enter the box, and thus the overall design of the inlet and exhaust openings. The closed box design will be deemed sufficient if the fire inside burns as long and hot or longer and hotter than the open flame process. If these conditions are met, the fire is assumed to be satisfactory for cooking and this design may lead to further advances in targeting the issue of indoor air pollution. Future work may entail padding the exhaust opening with filtering materials to capture the harmful constituents of the exhaust gases, thereby leading to a complete solution. The entire project was based on the assumption of keeping the solution simple, cheap and leading to minimal change in human behavior.