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Clarkson professor working on international standards for wood stoves

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POTSDAM - With billions of people around the world still relying on three-stone fires for cooking, the challenge and solution are intertwined in the same situation, and Clarkson University Prof. Philip Hopke is heading to Nairobi to weigh in on the side of a scientific solution.

Hopke is Clarkson’s Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor, director of Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment and director of Clarkson’s Center for Air Resources Engineering & Science (CARES).

One of his many areas of expertise and interest is wood stove technology. He tackles the issue on an international level, as with this month’s meeting of the International Standards Organization (ISO) Committee TC285 on clean cook stoves and clean cooking solutions in Nairobi, where the focus will be on establishing international standards for safe, efficient cook stoves.

“The key is to get a set of practical, useful protocols for testing stoves. We have had many disasters because stoves haven’t been tested before they were deployed,” Hopke says. “A lot of people think they know how to make a wood stove, but as we try to scale up stove production to actually make an impact, we must be sure the stoves do what we want them to do.”

It’s critical that over the next 10 years or less to build a global industry that can build and distribute 125 million to 150 million stoves a year to serve the global need, he said.

“About three billion people around the world cook meals every day on solid fuel such as wood, dung, or whatever they can find,” he adds. “They need to be able to heat food and water adequately, and to stay warm. We must make stoves more efficient and less pollution-emitting. By improving stove technology, we can help build an economy in developing countries, reduce indoor air pollution, and improve health all at the same time. It also has climate benefits by reducing black carbon, methane and carbon monoxide emissions.”

Creating change on a worldwide level won’t happen quickly, he acknowledges. This ISO TC 285 Plenary conference is sandwiched between two trips to Washington, D.C., to consult for the State Department.

“You make incremental progress and eventually get where you need to go. Much of world is still using a three-stone fire to cook with. If we can good quality stoves into general use, that will be a good thing for human health and the climate,” he says.

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