Dr Cris Birzer’s research focuses on the development of humanitarian technologies for resource-constrained countries and regions. His motivation is to make complex engineering available and affordable to those who need it most, in order to help raise their quality of life, increase life expectancy, and reduce preventable deaths.
Early in his research career, Cris became aware of some key statistics: 3 billion people rely on solid-fuel (wood, dung, coal) burning stoves; and this results in 4 million people dying every year from respiratory-related illnesses. These facts led to the ‘cookstove project’.
Cris’s cookstove research includes using state-of-the-art laboratories from the University’s Centre for Energy Technology to understand the complex nature of solid-fuel combustion in order to design new cookstoves with increased fuel-efficiency and reduced harmful emissions production.
An early prototype cookstove design from the research group reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 90% when compared to traditional cooking procedures. The prototype, which can be made from scrap material at minimal cost, can also produce bio-char (a soil enhancer) as a by-product.
Other projects that Cris and his research team (the Humanitarian Technology Research Group co-founded with Dr Paul Medwell and Dr Peter Kalt) have developed include water treatment, sanitation and power generation systems. This research can help save millions of lives every year and improve the quality of life for billions.
Cris aims to provide essential knowledge (open-source where possible) and designs that can be implemented to ensure those who cannot afford high-tech products can still have high-quality lives. He and his team also focus on ensuring the designs they develop can be made locally, so that communities can build and maintain their own products, thus strengthening their economies.
“The ultimate goal of our research is to not be needed. We work with non-government organisations around the world to help implement the designs and products; we share the knowledge with anyone and everyone interested so they can implement the work; and we work towards building economies in regions where people earn less than $2 per day.”
To learn more about Dr Birzer’s cookstove project, watch the video.