Innovation Engineering – “Sumber” biomass converter | 2013

Sumber, a construction that allows for conversion of biomass resources, such as coconut shells and rice-straw, into biocoal and syngas through pyrolysis, has been designed by Joana Holmström Céspedes, Industrial Design, Lund University, based on a site visit in Junkat, Borneo.

After having had the opportunity to work and observe small scale farmers in Jungkat, Borneo in their every day life, the insight of the need for soil improvement and the desire for energy became evident. Tropical soils around Jungkat are sensitive to seasonal changes, pH low and nutrient poor. A good soil quality is key to a fruitful harvest and basic family income. Based on the profit from harvests, farmer families use either wood or gas as an energy source. When gas is not an economical option, families use wood fires for cooking, which require large amounts of wood and can be harmful if done indoors. These two need areas could be fulfilled through using natural resources available on the farm. Today resources such as coconut shells and rice-straw are many times considered as waste. Instead of using organic resources for soilimprovement and energy, many farmers use Lpg gas and chemicals distributed by the government. But, governmental subsidies create a socioeconomic dependency which cannot be sustained in the long term. Thereby the goal with this project is to create an option for farmers to create their own soil improvement and energy through processing their biomass resources. This through designing a solution that is inspired by farmer behavior, using available materials and manufactured so that is easy to maintain at a low cost.

The end result is Sumber, a construction that allows for conversion of biomass resources, such as coconut shells and rice-straw, into biocoal and syngas through pyrolysis.

Biocoal for soil improvement was initially established by the people in the Amazon, Brazil thousands of years ago. Applying bicoal to poor soil can improve its ability to retain nutrients and water, thus increasing harvest rate in the long term. From the pyrolysis process needed to make bicoal a bi-product is syngas. Syngas is a highly combustible gas that can be used for cooking directly during the process or stored for later usage.

The final implementation of the project is to be done later this year, together with local farmers and researchers from Tanjungpura University on Borneo. By implementing Sumber, the vision is to convert linear waste systems into cyclic processes that generate no waste. Sumber will provide value for the farmer and contribute to a sustainable development of small scale agriculture, as biocoal reduces Co2-emissions by binding Carbon to the soil.

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