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Summer 2014 Blog - Lilian Kabelle

Lilian Kabelle is spending the summer at SHALIN Finland in Kenya

July 28th, 2014

I can’t believe that I only have two weeks left before the end of my internship. It feels like I just got here. Well, my internship might be ending soon but I have with me the memories, experiences and lessons that have been safely tucked. The new model of the gasifier stove that we just worked on lit up pretty well and the flames got bigger and hotter. But to further improve the airflow and make the flames more blue and better, a fan has been introduced to the new model. The cool thing about the installation of this fan is that it will not require electricity to function. A small steam engine made up of a can, a pipe and boiling water has been set up to provide the steam to propel the fan.

Flames during the gasification process in the stove

Flames during the gasification process of the stove

We were to travel to Cherangany this week to see how functional our stove would be to the local community members but the installation of the fan into the current stove might take some time since different models have to be tried. And soon after that we will try and install a water-jacket at the hottest part of the stove. This way, instead of losing precious heat, this heat would be used to sanitize water by heating it up to boiling. This way, people could boil their water to drink as they cook. Many have fallen victims to various diseases like Typhoid, which has claimed hundreds of lives due to consumption of unsafe water. Once complete, this stove would not only help conserve the environment through optimization of biomass for fuel use, but also help save lives through sanitization of water.

Since I only have two weeks left, I have to get down to developing a syllabus for a gasifier course, which will be introduced into the technical institute I have been teaching at. I enjoy doing this since I am learning so much in the process. I did not know that this simple concept of gasification could be used on transportation fuels and also on electricity generation. It’s been interesting to learn the various kinds of gasification processes and to explore further what it’s all about. I have to be keen and wary of my source of information, interpretations and research as I write up the syllabus because hundreds of students will be dependent on it. Although it will be edited at HAMK University of Applied Sciences in Finland, I still want to make sure that I give accurate details. For now, I think I am doing a pretty decent job on it (at least that’s what one of my supervisors said) and I hope to keep that up.  At the end of all this, I should be a gasification expert- so excited for that!

A selfie of me and my teammates

A selfie of me and my teammates

July 11th, 2014

July 11th already?? How did that happen? It is amazing how fast time flies.  I can’t believe that I only have about a month left to complete my internship here. The lessons and experiences I have had have opened my eyes wider. Under Shalin Finland is a program called skillsFAST which is about exchanging and sharing skills among students within East Africa to prepare them for self employment since the job situation in east Africa is getting desperate. For example several students will benefit from a Nikola Tesla generator, a solar water heater, and the stove(that am working on) projects through the skillsFAST program since the students can get into self-employment upon graduation. Just a thought that popped into my head the other day after witnessing the success on the projects: maybe as a skilled engineer in the near future, I could train some youths to work on some crazy projects that could help develop this beautiful country of mine!! I am still working on this thought!!

And now onto the stove project that I have been working on: the team has come very close in developing the right model of gasifier that we have been hunting for.  We have tried to fit cone shapes into it to improve the air flow and these adjustments have led to dramatic improvements in the air flow and hence better combustion of the syngas. There was no smoke during cook-time and the flame was more stable. We are still trying to find ways of controlling smoke when the wood is lit before the gasification process begins. But so far we have made good process. We hope to go into various communities in rural Kenya to research on how the gasifier would be accepted or become useful in the communities. I am so excited for this!! This is to happen sometime next week. I am so excited for this!!

Bottom design of the stove to improve air flow

Bottom design of the stove to improve air flow

The gasifier stove during testing

The gasifier stove during testing

And they say(not sure who ‘they’ refers to) that too much work without play makes Jack a dull boy. And so my supervisor often takes us out for some nyama choma(roast meat) or just some nice evening and team dinners most evenings whenever he is free. The team also hangs out a lot, making jokes and just laughing. I think I will live a few hours longer if not days due to the laughter I have had from working with my teammates. I also travel home every weekend to see friends and family. It has been a great summer!!

June 24, 2014

These past two weeks have been eventful and full of progress in terms of the projects I have been part of. There have been a few changes though. About two weeks ago I was working on developing a catalytic converter for the stoves but then we realized that the catalysts that were necessary for effectiveness were on the pricier side and so as a result our stove would be too expensive for the targeted population. I liked the project though, I will just develop one to keep for myself since I already know how- it will be handy in the near future.

Instead, it was concluded that a gasifier(downdraft) would solve our little smoke problem. The results have been impressive. This past week we finally developed a gasifier that resulted in a partially blue flame with almost no smoke. We are now playing around with the geometry of the stove chambers to enhance the necessary airflow in the stove. The right geometry would completely eliminate the smoke and maximize heat generation.

I found the concept of the gasifier to be very interesting. The pyrolytic gases from the burned wood(which is reduced to charcoal and NOT ashes) are combusted with oxygen(from air) to generate the heat. As a result, very little wood or other biomass is used and with very little or no smoke from the stove. A catalytic converter would therefore not be necessary with the right design (which we are close to getting to I believe). Hundreds of trees could be saved if this stove could replace the ordinary wood stove. Additionally, the charcoal, which is the end product of the wood burned in the gasifier, can be used in gardens to increase productivity.

Also, I get to work and interact with students from the technical institute(Christian Industrial Training College) which is the base for the project. They are all friendly and eager to learn. And so it’s been great working with them since we all share common interests. I also got to teach the students Math this past week- which I really enjoyed because the students were nice and seemed to have understand the material.

These past two weeks have been great because I got to know the people I work with more and we had lots of “nyama choma”(roast meat) outings most evenings.  I am excited for this week when we will test our improved stove which is being made into a conical shape. I never thought I would be this excited about a blue flame!!

June 11th, 2014

It has been a great experience so far interning at Shalin Finland. From the first day I set foot in this beautiful oven (because it’s super hot here), I knew that I was going to have a good time this summer. I had never been to this part of the country (Thika) before but I felt at home the moment I set foot on it- anywhere in Kenya is home for me. I received a warm welcome from the staff and my supervisors that I would be working with for the entire summer (phew! Good thing). It is a nice little town and two of my friends live close by and so I am not entirely lonely whenever am out of work or away from family. I am glad that I can visit my family sometimes over the weekends, and they come visit me too.

I have learned a lot from Peter Kuria and Ken Ndua who have been great mentors and supervisors. They are always on move to try and solve a problem or two that seem ignored by everybody else. Innovation does start by an individual. Their motto to not wait for someone else to solve a problem- one should at least try. And I have picked that up! They are both leading projects on ‘green’ stoves. Currently Ken and I are working on developing a wood stove catalytic converter to get rid of the small amounts of smoke coming from the stove as a result of burning wood. I was amazed to see 80% of the smoke from wood get eliminated from the stove design and pretty soon with the proper catalytic converter design, 99.95% of the smoke should be eliminated. Excited for the final product!! So many people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning and being a part of the solution is fulfilling.


Besides the catalytic converter project, Ken and I are also working on designing a kiln that maximizes the solar energy to dry ceramics for the stoves. We are thinking of using heliostats for now but still doing some research on that. It’s amazing how much energy one can harness from the sun! Rather than just get roasted into beef jerky, trap the energy. I am loving the sun even more!! I am learning of ways in which I could use the sun’s energy on some small projects (still underway) to help various communities- not just this summer but in the sometime in the future as well.

Now away from work: they say (not sure who ‘they’ are) that work without play makes Jack a dull boy. So my supervisor tries to make it all fun by encouraging us all to chat over lunch, breakfast and during breaks in general. He also takes the team out for team bonding activities and fun times once in while.


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