Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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SolSource Tibet

$3000 Yunus Challenge Award

SolSource Tibet

Competition Year: 2008

A dual-purpose solar design which incorporates both cooking and heating functions.

Health and Medical Education and Training Energy and Environment Finance and Entrepreneurship Agriculture and Processing

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Our Pitch

The rural population of western China relies heavily on dung and wood for fuel. These fuels are attractive to rural peoples because they are free of cost. The collection of wood, however, results in deforestation while the time required for women and children to collect both fuels perpetuates under-education, gender inequality, and poverty. In addition, the indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the combustion of these fuels are a detriment both to the health of rural people and to the health of the global environment.

SolSource Tibet has developed an innovative solar design which addresses the most pertinent needs of the rural population while reducing the quantity of biomass fuel collected and combusted.

The SolSource solar cooker replaces the concrete solar cooker frame currently used in the area with a tent-like bamboo frame that can be dismantled by farmers and nomads during travel between the home and field. The choice of bamboo - an earthquake safe material - and the broad base formed by the re-bar legs which can be anchored during high winds, help our solar design weather the harsh conditions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The dish and reflector are formed by mylar sewn into a 25-panel yak wool canvas.

The SolSource Tibet project will give women more free time for economic activities, improve health, increase education, and strengthen family units.



2008 Yunus Challenge: Improving Indoor Air Quality

Who We Are

Scot Frank, MIT alum Scot is an avid China-enthusiast whose trips for work in educational technology and communication, fellowship on cultural preservation, and alternative energy surveying in rural areas of western China have increased his attachment to and motivation to help the region and its people. Initially interested in applied technology for development, he now wishes to focus his attention on problems of more immediate need such as water access and alternative sources of energy. Scot previously directed the MIT-China Educational Technology Initiative, received the Award for Excellence for the top student in the Department of Foreign Language and Literature, and also co-led the D-Lab China team in January 2008. From his contacts and connections formed by extensive work and travel of years past, along with his Chinese language proficiency, Scot will be responsible for trip logistics. He will also help develop solar cooker designs based on his knowledge, experience, and previous development work there as well as build and implement the online fuel emissions database.

Catlin Powers, Harvard PhD student Catlin is a double major in Chemistry and Environmental Policy & Economics at Wellesley College. In January 2008, she traveled to Amdo, Tibet with the MIT D-Lab 2008 Tibet team. There, her interest in the health, comfort, and social status of women motivated curiosity about solar cooker design. With the team, she participated in emissions testing, visited a solar cooker factory, and interviewed villagers about the improvements they would like to see made in solar cooker design. Prior to January 2008, Catlin had visited the Tibetan Autonomous Region and noted inefficiencies in the unique design of solar cookers employed there. Within environmental issues, Catlin has a special interest in energy and climate change. She has previously interned in atmospheric chemistry at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and produced a collaborative paper on global energy trends with the Alliance for Global Sustainability later presented at the Academia Engelberg Dialogue on Science. Currently, she is interning at a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) company called Amoda Environmental Solutions located in Bangalore, India and working on a scalable rural biogas project. Catlin will contribute to the development of the team's designs through her knowledge of chemical thermodynamics and previous experiences with solar cookers in Tibet. Should the testing phases of the project prove successful, Catlin will help the team pursue CDM funding for further implementation.

Our Community Partner

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  • Service Location
    beijing, china
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