Peter’s rocket stove notes from the field

Welcome to my first blog posting

I have had a very interesting and fruitful six weeks in the field. I have been doing projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, DRC and now I have just arrived in Malawi to begin work on the biomass powered dryer.

In Ethiopia we had a number of very interesting developments. First of all we discovered that the traditional local ceramics that potters have been using for thousands of years (to produce ceramic cookware for injera baking and non-injera cooking) are ideally suited for the production of rocketstove liners. They can withstand thermal shock and are quite abrasion resistant. The ceramic is made from simple mixture of one part black Clay and two parts volcanic sand. After four days of drying, the Clay mixture is fired with a dung powered kiln for approximately one hour. This goes against everything that we think we know about producing ceramics that can withstand high temperatures.

This liner is now being used in the locally produced rocketstove (known as the Tikikil stove) as well as the IRS (institutional rocket stove). The institutional stoves on the left have been used 24/7, 17 hours a day, for the last 11 months and show no visible signs of degradation.


GTZ – ECO and Hilawe Lakew have done a great job of adapting and developing the rocketstove principle to suit local needs. We made a brief assessment of one community just outside of Addis Ababa and we found some very positive user feedback. In one house they cut their fuel bill from approximately 4 US dollars/ETB 48 a week for charcoal and kerosene to approximately 1 US dollar/ETB 12 per week using the tikikil. My great hope for Ethiopia — and for all of Africa is that we can switch users from charcoal stoves (which can have an efficiency of the little as 3% if one considers the production of the charcoal as well as the efficiency of the stove) to improved woodstoves, we might have a chance of saving the forests of Africa. The dissemination of the tikikil stove is still in its infancy (approximately 2000 stoves have been made so far) but reaction so far seems very positive

Since may 2009 I have been developing an improved institutional rocket stove with chimney. Preliminary tests of the stove showed that it could boil approximately 100 L of water 55 minutes with 4.3 KG of wood. A design tool for producing a customized institutional rocket stove with chimney should be available by spring 2010




Over the last year now I have been working on developing a rocketstove that can effectively and efficiently cook injera. Working with Dr. Dale Andreatta and a few of his interns we have made a number of prototypes. During stove camp we developed an injera stove that utilized an aluminum plate for cooking injera. When I tested the design in Addis last month I found that it worked perfectly except for the one small fact … it couldn’t cook injera! The injera batterdid not dissipate and spread evenly over the plate. Instead it creates a number of furrows. The hypothesis at this point is that what makes the aluminum plate so efficient ( high conductivity and heat transfer) also makes it terrible for cooking injera (high conductivity and heat transfer). The heat transfers so quickly into the batter that it fries it instead of baking it


Luckily the local cooks and one of my local counterparts came to the rescue and suggested that we try the new geometry with the traditional ceramic plates. And it worked! More work will be done on the stove. Luckily Michael Vehar has offered 2 interns from ETHOS to assist in the continuing R&D of the stove.


Im looking for used lap tops that I can donate to my local stove producers so they can use our fancy sfotware to simplfiy the design process

contact me at




2 Responses to “Peter’s rocket stove notes from the field”

  1. Jeff Nathan Says:

    Excellent article in the New Yorker. You have got me hooked. I figure maybe I can build one in Chicago. My wife probably wants to stay inside in the winter but I can maybe boil Bratwurst outside. Keep me out of the kitchen.

  2. tony benson Says:

    am interested in the low cost technology involved in mud stoves using local materials .My interests lie in a charitable organisation of mine in Kenya . They are Rocket stoves of a sort .Do you have any experience or interest in these .There is a possibility of using Rice husks from local paddy fields to make Firebricks ,and as part substitute for cement from ash.Also want to burn rice husks directly as a fuel using local manualy pressed briquettes . Have you come across this ???There are steel made gasified stoves using which need power for the fans.These are too expensive in the first place. Can one use natural draft as the gasification method??

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