Product Design students turn bamboo into fuel

University of Brighton students have created an innovative business idea to turn bamboo into a sustainable fuel, promoting a circular economy in a developing area of the world.

The Product Design students Ewan Brammall, Josh Bunn, Olivia Jordan, EJ Schreuder, James Semple and Jonah Taylor, focused their idea on people living in Kibera, an informal settlement in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, who currently use local forests for fuels.

The project was part of their studies on the degree programme and the aim was to teach young designers to be globally responsible. The project was led by Cathy Grundy, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design and was personally sponsored by the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris.

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and would be a more sustainable, quickly renewable alternative. It burns more efficiently and can also remove poisonous toxins from the soil during its growth so that other crops, perhaps providing food that is safe to eat, can also thrive.

The team represented the University at the ‘Engineers Without Borders’ Design Challenge’ competition and were selected for the final round against 30 other Universities.

The aim of the Engineers Without Borders organization is to “give students opportunities to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering designs”.

Lara Lewington, the University of Brighton’s Assistant Lecturer for the Design Challenge, said: “Through this innovation, residents of Kibera will be able to grow bamboo locally, which can be converted into charcoal briquettes by a small local business, using a ‘rocket furnace’. “The introduction of this fuel source will lead to many different benefits to the area and the people of Kibera.”

Dr Carlos Peralta, a Design Senior Lecturer from the School of Architecture and Design, who also tutored students for the Design Challenge, said: “The MosoSoil project is an example of good design underpinned by a thorough understanding of the user and the context and employing appropriate technology.”

Cathy Grundy said: “Our product design students have learned to apply a people-centred approach to design, basing their innovations on an empathic understanding the problems they face.”

More information on the challenge

Further information on Product Design courses



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