When Lawrence Kaburu submitted a heat exchanger as part of his fifth year design project for his Bachelors in Chemical & Process Engineering course in 2012, little did he know that three years later, this would actually inspire him to come up with a special kind of innovation.
This 34-year-old is the inventor of Jiko Poa, a special energy conserving stove. Jiko Poa is made up of a furnace, a fan and a heat exchanger.
The furnace is where the fuel is placed and serves as the heating point. The fan provides a stream of oxygen necessary for combustion and accelerates the rate of reaction due to turbulence of air flow. Its speed is controlled to ensure control of furnace temperatures.
On the other hand the heat exchanger utilises the heat that is lost by heating up cold water in the heat exchanger. This improves the efficiency of the stove. The stove is smokeless and is able to give you hot and safe-to-drink water in the process of your cooking due to its heat exchanger.
But that’s not the special bit of this innovation. This stove uses a rare kind of rock as fuel. This rare kind of rock is mostly found in volcanic areas. “The rock is actually reusable and could be used for between seven months and a couple of years without being replaced. A sack of the stones can last any nuclear family for more than 50 years due to its re-usability property,” he explains.
Of course the rocks could be used on the normal jikos, but they would not be efficient or effective. “They need a fan to make them glow brilliantly making them very hot,” he adds.
Kaburu says the stove is not just useful when it comes to reducing considerably logging, it is the answer to the girl -child problem, considering that in most communities she has been the ones burdened with the responsibility of looking for firewood.
For now the stove goes for Sh 12,000, a price that he says has gone up due to the fact that he is the sole artisan involved. “I haven’t patented it thus I have been afraid of outsourcing it, a fact that has left me with the whole responsibility of designing and producing it from scratch. This takes time and a lot of energy thus the exorbitant price,” he explains.
Currently he says, it takes three days to finish one, a factor that could immensely change if different parts were to be done separately and assembling done in one location.
“If that were the case, it could take just a few hours to assemble one unit, which means that more stoves would be available, thus reduce the price,” he says.
But the price hasn’t prevented some from rushing for this special kind of equipment. Already, he says, he has orders for the stove from different clients all over the country. “I have eight people in total from Nairobi, Thika, Meru and the Coast,” he adds.
What inspired him to come up with the innovation was the extent of forest destruction he witnessed not just in his home area of Chogoria, Tharaka-Nithi County, but around the country.