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BioLite, a startup based in New York City, designs energy products focused on burning wood as cleanly as modern fuels while generating off-grid electricity. Using thermoelectric technology, BioLite produces wood-burning stoves that also function as chargers for portable electronic devices. The HomeStove and the CampStove are BioLite’s main products.
Jonathan Cedar and Alexander Drummond together developed the BioLite stove technology. They met while working at Smart Design, a design consultancy in New York City. The two inventors became interested in portable stoves that combined local sources of wood with battery-powered fans. The idea evolved to a low-emissions stove that utilized a thermoelectric generator called the BioLite CampStove, which was officially launched in 2012. BioLite now has twenty employees and is headquartered in DUMBO, Brooklyn with additional branches in Seattle and Austin.
Early on in BioLite's development, winning a clean combustion competition inspired the founders, realizing that their technology could have impact on off-grid developing communities. Using a modified rocket stove and working with the Aprovecho Research Center, Cedar developed a larger model cook stove named the HomeStove, designed to replace harmful indoor cooking fires.
- January – CampStove prototype wins top prize at ETHOS Comubustion Conference
- September – Cedar leaves Smart Design to work on BioLite full-time
- November – HomeStove H1 prototype is created
- March – The addition of a USB Port is considered for the future of BioLite
- April – With the help of the Aprovecho Research Center, thermoelectric rocket stove emissions were measured
- February – BioLite settles down in Brooklyn, NY and hires its first staff members
- May – In an effort to understand user needs, BioLite field tests the H2 HomeStove prototype in India
- September – After five rounds of prototypes, the CampStove design is approved
- November – Field tests are run in Ghana and Uganda with the H3 prototype
- May – The first CampStove orders ship
- April – USPTO grants BioLite patents for core technology
- November – HomeStove H4 prototype approved for pilot testing
The HomeStove’s design converts the heat of fire into usable electricity to power a fan, which then reduces fuel needs by 50%, toxic smoke by about 95%, and Carbon Monoxide emissions by 91%. Additionally, the amount of CO2 saved per year by one stove equals the amount that’s saved by buying a hybrid car. The remaining off-grid energy that does not power the fan can then be used to charge portable devices through a USB port, such as cell phones and LED lights. Moreover, the effects of deforestation are lessened and time is regained by women and children who spend hours gathering wood for open fires. Manufacturing costs are low and this efficient wood-burning stove pays for itself within six to seven months.
BioLite focuses on sustainable market development by using a market-based approach, as supposed to donations or a “one for one” model. This allows for local entrepreneurship and stimulates local markets. The HomeStove is currently in large-scale pilot testing across India, Ghana, and Uganda. Recently, thanks to a Spark Fund grant, BioLite will be kicking off a project in Uganda with partners at Impact Carbon. The Spark Fund grant is part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an organization that provides clean cook stoves to people in areas with high poverty rates. Its mission is to reduce the number of deaths caused by open cooking fires each year (approximately four million), and is endorsed by people such as Julia Roberts and Hillary Clinton (who referred to BioLite in her announcement of the UN Clean Cookstove Alliance).
The CampStove was launched in 2012 and is predominantly used by outdoor enthusiasts. Renewable biomass fuels – such as sticks, pinecones, and brush – power the stove, replacing resources like charcoal or petroleum. The CampStove can boil water in five minutes. Smaller than the HomeStove, the CampStove is 8.25” tall and weighs 33 oz, but like the larger model, excess heat is converted into energy. BioLite sells stoves in over seventy countries. The CampStove has also been used as an emergency preparedness tool. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, tables were set up in New York City, offering those without power hot drinks and a chance to charge their cell phones.
The BioLite Portable Grill, released in 2013, is designed to work with the CampStove. Features include a fuel intake lid for fire maintenance, compact design with foldable legs and a travel cover for transportation. The travel cover can additionally function as a serving dish or cutting board. The steel grill grate has three temperature zones for searing, cooking, and toasting. The grill weighs in at just under 2 lbs (0.9 kg).
BioLite employs a model of parallel innovation, long-term for-profit social enterprise supported by more immediate market capital. According to BioLite, they utilized their “near-term CampStove market as a way to generate revenue that essentially allowed [them] to become [their] own investors in the HomeStove vision.” That involves a market-based approach to some of the issues in emerging communities. The recreational and emergency preparedness markets of the CampStove keep the HomeStove low-cost. BioLite utilizes local distribution networks and alters their stove design to support the variety of cultural cooking preferences.
- Public Interest Design Global 100 (2013) 
- Social Impact Professional Winner (Core77 Design Awards, 2013)
- Best Adventure Gear (Travel + Leisure Design Awards, 2013)
- Autodesk’s Inventor of the Month (February, 2013)
- National Geographic’s Gear of the Year (2012)
- Innovation by Design Award (Fast Company, 2012) – Finalist
- Best of What’s New (Popular Science, 2012) – Grand Award Winner
- Nokia Health Award (2012)
- OWPG Derryck Draper Award (2012)
- EPIC Gear Junkie Award (2012)
- Play It Forward Project (Citizen Group, 2011)
- INDEX Awards (2011) - Finalist
- America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs (Businessweek, 2011) – Top 25
- St. Andrews Prize for the Environment (2011)
- Dasra Social Impact Program (2010)
- Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (2010)
- PopTech Social Innovation Fellowship (2010) – Finalist
- Vodafone Wireless Innovation Prize (2010) – Partnership with UC Berkeley
- Top Prize for Lowest Emissions Stove (ETHOS Stove Conference, 2009)
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