USTP Posts

Followup visit in the Philippines: 8 months later

Posted Monday 27 April 2020 by Eva Wissenz.

We recently revisited our partners USTP (The University of Science and Technology of the Southern Philippines) and CarbonCycle in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.

Nearly a year has passed since Lorin was last in the Philippines working with CarbonCycle to power their ‘waste to riches’ business model with Lytefire, assisted by ‘on the job’ trainee students from the Faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Together, we are still seeking R&D funding from DOST and other Filipino government initiatives.

Since then, the mechanical engineering students have made a few modifications to the cashew roaster we Installed a Lytefire5 Multi at a facility owned by the women’s group BAPPCO (Best Agri Products Processing Cooperative).

The roasting drum now rotates automatically thanks to the installation of a 150W solar panel on top of the oven.

The students also created a new end-loading and unloading door for the cashews, actuated by reversing the direction of spin of the roasting drum.

Lorin, as well as Dale from CarbonCycle met with Bronson Mabulay, the Director of Innovation and Technology Solutions and Dr. Ambrosio Cultura, who last year was Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation the but is now President of the University. They brought with them the architect in charge of the new TechnoPark that is being built as a hub to promote the commercialisation of products developed by USTP students as they progress with their studies.

It was generally agreed that there would be some space saved for solar concentrators on the grounds and rooftops of the new TechnoPark. :)


Solar Entrepreneurship: GoSol’s SOL5s maximise profits
for cashew nuts producers

Posted Tuesday 20 August 2019 by Lorin Symington.

The Best Agri Products Processing Cooperative (Bappco) is a busy hive of activity. Six days a week the men and (mostly) women of Bappco are hard at work processing cashews. The amount of attention that they pay to each individual cashew is really impressive. If you’ve ever wondered why cashews are so expensive, read on and discover the steps involved and how our SOL5 is enabling this cooperative to maximise their profits.

Above, one of our SOL5 trainees, Gina Munleon, long time member of Bappco, adjusts the focal point during our training session. Previously, Bappco depended on tabletop ‘turbo roasters’ powered by electricity. On more than one occasion while I was in their space there were extended blackouts, effectively bottlenecking their production.

In addition to the roaster, our local partner CarbonCycle wanted us to develop a a new application to remove the toxic liquid contained within the shell of the coconut (for more information on that, see the previous blog post). This will help to streamline their production flow and it means that they don’t have to depend as much on outside service providers.

Read on for an overview of the processing performed by the lovely ladies of Bappco.

Sacks of cashew nuts are dropped off and are dumped out to be sorted. Misshapen, mouldy or off-colour nuts are sorted out and discarded. Then the nuts are spread out in the sun for pre-drying.

Next, they are either shipped to another community for fire-frying to extract the cashew nuts shell liquid (CNSL) or they are cracked directly, in which case the ladies must coat their hands and arms in vegetable oil to avoid irritation due to the acidic and toxic nature of the liquid. For cracking/splitting, Bappco has several table mounted nut splitters. Once the nuts are cracked, the kernel is extracted and either peeled or not peeled depending on the desired final product.

Next, the cashews are dried in a big electric drier. Up to 100kg of cashews are dried for 3 hours and then are ready for roasting. Until recently, Bappco would use a tabletop ‘Turbo Roaster’, a 1200w convection roasting chamber. The Turbo roaster can ‘white roast’ 2kg in about 20 minutes and needs to be stirred every 2-3 minutes to ensure even roasting. For lightly browned ‘toasted’ cashews, the process takes 35 minutes for 2 kilos. Our SOL5 toasts twice as fast and can roast beans without using the pre-drier, enabling Bappco to overcome electricity costs!

Next is sifting and sorting, where whole cashews, half cashews and bits and pieces are separated, then weighed and packaged. Each cashew is individually handled 4 times, and are handled in bulk an additional 4 times.

With our technologies in the production line, Bappco can now supply more cashews to their local markets and is making significant savings on electricity. Again, with the help of our local partner CarbonCycle and the University of the Southern Philippines (USTP) we’ll be gathering data and establishing just how much benefit these eco entrepreneurs are having on the environment as well as their bottom line.


Solar charcoal, cashew nuts process and new evolutions

Posted Monday 20 May 2019 by Lorin Symington.

Prototyping: beautiful (sometimes frustrating) and creative (sometimes repetitive trial and error iteration) prototyping! Building innovative new solutions to problems presented to us by our partner and their stakeholders on the ground.

We’re in a very interesting phase here on the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, Philippines. We’ve built two hybrid oven/roasters, very similar to those we’ve deployed in Kenya, though with a few notable improvements to stability and durability around the light window and the door.

We’re currently developing two new applications for making charcoal and removing Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL). Below, a series of pictures showing various rough prototypes, stakeholder context and some fun around the workshop. Enjoy.

Coconuts:

Tropical paradise that it is, The Philippines has an abundance of coconuts. The hard shell of the coconut is on par with many hardwoods in terms of energy density and it is often converted into charcoal by burning it in an oxygen deprived environment (pyrolysis).

Above, an ‘improved’ steel drum charcoal kiln. Improved is a relative term… this is more efficient than building a great big fire and then dousing it with water or smothering it with dirt or sand, as is done in many places around the world. How would you like a smoky charcoal business in your neighbourhood? My initial calculations indicate 6kg of coconut shell makes 1kg of coconut shell charcoal, which is in line with UN averages for cottage industry charcoal making.

Some of the team during the second test of our coconut charcoal maker, after we tested it without insulation to get a baseline. This application is particularly exciting for me because this is a way to displace a huge amount of dirty emissions and increase the earning potential for coconut farmers. No longer will they burn up most of their coconut shells to get bit of charcoal. This application might triple the income from coconut shell byproducts for small farmers.

A very successful test run. 90% of the coconut shells were converted to charcoal, with only the shells at the bottom of the drum remaining uncarbonized. We’ll solve that by diverting the flammable gas that emerges from the chimney to the bottom of the drum.

A surprisingly sharp dividing line between converted and unconverted charcoal.

Cashews:

The Philippines is one of the major cashew producers in the world, especially considering the size of the country. If you’ve ever wondered why cashews are so expensive it is because they are a very weird nut whose processing must be very careful. The cashew nut grows on the bottom of the fruit of the cashew tree. Inside the shell, between the outer shell and the edible kernel on the inside is a dense spongy pith, filled with a remarkable cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL). The liquid is highly acidic, flammable and quite toxic!

It is a raw material of multiple uses in developing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides, and biomaterials. It is used in tropical folk medicine and for antitermite treatment of timber. CNSL may be used as a resin for carbon composite products and as petrochemical substitute, etc. Wikipedia
As such, CNSL has a value on par with refined petroleum products, making it a potentially interesting source of income.

Traditional cottage industry processing involves heating the cashew nuts in a perforated pan on an open flame. Once they are sufficiently heated, they burst, and the CNSL spews forth and everything catches fire. They’re removed from the fire, dumped on the ground and doused with collected rainwater.

Cashew processing is a family affair. Once the cashews are cooled, the women crack them open and extract the kernel. The shells and the fluid are all the fuel the fire needs to burn and smoke like crazy all day long. The smoke is acrid and heavy and wafts across the neighbourhood, to the detriment of the health of all involved.

First prototype… steel mesh on square tube - aka what happens when you stick the nuts in the focal point? They burst! There’s no fire. There’s less smoke. However, you need to stand in the sun constantly waving this contraption. Also, the focal point is so hot that the CNSL on side facing the sun bursts out, but on the sides the liquid remains (think about how much solar energy you get at sunset versus noon).

It might not be ideal for CNSL removal but it makes a great fish frier!

How to get even roasting? Build a steel mesh drum, put it in a box with a window and fire away! However, the bursting of the liquid from the shell coats the glass, which is not sustainable.

We’ve made a few more prototypes and we’re zeroing in on a good design… a design where we’ll replace young Jerson here with a solar panel and a motor.

The new faces you see are some of the students from the University of Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) who are doing their summer internship with us, some of whom will continue on to quantify certain aspects of GoSol’s solar tech and assist with data collection and validation of results reported by CarbonCycle and the end users.

Initial tests on the rooftop of the library on USTP’s Cagayan de Oro campus.

The great news is that the ladies and gentlemen from the cashew cooperative we’re dealing with say that the nuts are of a high quality, that the liquid doesn’t get forced deeper into the nut and contaminate the kernel, which often happens with the open fire frying method, meaning they must sell those nuts at a discount. They’re excited to receive training on the SOL5 and integrate it to their production.

Stay tuned, because that’s the next phase of the project!


Announcing GoSol - USTP University Collaboration

Posted samedi 27 avril 2019 by Eva Wissenz.

We are happy to announce the start of a collaboration with the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines.

Carbon Cycle ltd is very dynamic to initiate our partnership to implement our technology for micro-entrepreneurs in the Philippines. In that context, it seemed strategically needed to engage with the University.

Mr Bronson Mabulay, the Director of Innovation and Technology Solutions and Dr. Ambrosio Cultura, President of the University, are very motivated by this new partnership. A new TechnoPark is being build at the University as a hub to promote the commercialisation of products developed by USTP students as they progress with their studies. The students from the Faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences are very motivated to join and work with the GoSol tech.

We’re excited about the cooperation start and look forward to start engaging the students very soon.


 

 

 

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