Not offered Fall 2023 / Spring 2024

Instructor: Michael Hannigan

Course Information

Why is this class important?

Household energy use in the global south, specifically cooking, heating and lighting, often involves inefficient and incomplete combustion of solid fuel. Globally, 3 billion people rely on solid fuel for cooking.  In 2017, the Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that this combustion as the 4th largest mortality risk factor, causing 2.7 million premature deaths per year. Additionally, this inefficient combustion plays a substantial role in climate change as well as contributes to deforestation. There is a strong societal need to tackle this problem. And, engineers will need to be part of the solution. 

What will students learn?

Students leaving this course will be able to meet this need as they will have the skills to design and assess existing and new household energy services technology used in the global south for cooking, heating and lighting. The course is split into three 5 week units. 

Unit 1. Household energy use and the services provided. The first unit covers an overview of existing household energy use and its impact on human health and climate along with a deeper dive into the services being provided by these energy conversion systems including food cooking with the focus on increasing useable calories.  We will explore how different forms of cooking, lighting and heating provide different service outcomes.  The students will use the context of their assigned country to think about each service.  For example, a student assigned to Indonesia might explore the differences in energy needed and calories provided by smoking versus pan frying fish.

Unit 2. Combustion of solid fuels.  The second unit covers combustion of solid fuels including both the fuel energy content as well as emissions. These emissions drive the human health and climate impact, so learning about why they happen and how they can be minimized will be the focus.  There will be some content on solid fuel alternatives depending on student interest.  Again, students will use the context of an assigned country to focus their exploration.  As an example, a student assigned Guatemala might explore the differences in CO emissions from burning wet versus dry corn crop residue.

Unit 3. Heat energy conversion technology. The third unit will cover the existing and potential alternative technologies that provide the service of cooking, heating and lighting.  These technologies are in large part heat transfer devices that are taking the heat released from the fuel and converting it to the energy needed to provide the service.  We will explore how these technologies are designed and how those designs could be improved to increase heat transfer efficiency or other energy service objectives.  Again, local context will be used, so a student assigned Burkina Faso might experiment with the how kerosene wick height changes the efficiency of light production from a lamp.

What will students do?

There will be case studies interlaced throughout the content and the bulk of the workload will be project based, including literature review and hands-on, student-driven, group experiments. As mentioned above, each student will be assigned a country which will allow them to focus on a small region of the globe as climate, food, and fuel spatial differences will impact the household energy systems.  The students will get to use the latest tools from Hannigan’s research group to do their own measurements of emissions and efficiency for given fuels and heat transfer technologies. The workload be split into the three discreet units with no work continuing from one unit to the next. 

How does this course fit with the rest of the curriculum?

The course draws on material from Thermo 1 and 2, Heat Transfer, a little bit of Solid Mechanics, and Measurements courses as well as scientific literature focused on household energy service and selected texts on Food Chemistry and Bioenergy.

Student Assessment

Unit 1.

Country Websites                                                                             20 %

(content and appearance, scope depending on student level)

Household energy service group project                                         80 %

(12 minute in-class presentation w/ 1 pg synopsis)

Unit 2.

Lecture                                                                                             20 %

(topics of chosen by student, 10-20 minutes depending on student level)

Combustion group project                                                               80 %

            (poster presentation)                                                                             

Unit 3.

Lecture                                                                                             20 %

(topics chosen by student, 10-20 minutes depending on student level)

Heat Transfer Group Project                                                                            

(12 minute in-class presentation w/ 5 pg report)                             80 %








Unit 1. Household energy use


Intro & country assignment

Motivation: health and climate impacts


Cooking service:


Cooking service: agriculture

Cooking service: carbohydrates


Cooking service: fats and oils

Cooking service: proteins

Cooking case studies


Project planning

Lighting service:

light quality

Lighting service: light quantity


Heating service

Project presentations


Unit 2. Combustion of solid fuels


Intro with case studies

Combustion review

Fuel energy content with measurements


Emissions: CO and VOCs

Emissions: Particulate Matter


Emissions: NOx


Project planning


Impact of wet fuels

Solid fuel alternatives

Agricultural open burning


Open burning waste disposal

Project planning

Project poster presentations


Unit 3. Heat energy conversion technologies


Intro with case studies

Heat transfer review

Cookstove design


Heating stove design

Pot conduction

Natural convection in stoves


Project planning

Forced convection in stoves

Radiation: cooking


Radiation: lighting & heating

Project planning

Lighting alternatives



Project presentations