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OSU receives $2.5 million grant to create wood stoves that burn more cleanly

Nordica MacCarty of the OSU College of Engineering is leading a $2.5 million Department of Energy effort to develop a retrofit for wood stoves that will help them burn more cleanly and efficiently
Karl Maasdam/OSU Foundation
Nordica MacCarty of the OSU College of Engineering is leading a $2.5 million Department of Energy effort to develop a retrofit for wood stoves that will help them burn more cleanly and efficiently

Firebox retrofit uses jets of air to help burn more efficiently

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A team of Oregon State University researchers has received a $2.5 million federal grant to work on reducing harmful emissions from wood-burning stoves, a primary source of heat in Native American communities and in low-resource areas in the United States.

Nordica MacCarty of the OSU College of Engineering is the principal investigator on the award from the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

MacCarty will work with three other OSU researchers, plus tribal and industry partners, to develop a firebox retrofit that uses the injection of turbulent jets of air to help stoves burn more cleanly and efficiently – even under suboptimal conditions, such as wet wood or too much fuel in the firebox.

“Minimizing the impact of non-ideal stove operation is really important because that kind of operation contributes the most to fine particle emissions, and it’s often been neglected during testing, research and development,” said MacCarty, the Richard & Gretchen Evans Scholar of Humanitarian Engineering and an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

“Our technology can be applied to future firebox design too, but retrofitting will make rapid and affordable implementation possible in underserved and tribal communities that suffer disproportionate health effects from wood smoke exposure,” she said.

There are an estimated 6.5 million inefficient stoves in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of them older models that predate federal clean-burning standards.

In addition to requiring more fuel, a problem from both an economic and sustainability standpoint, inefficient stoves can have a large, negative effect on chimney safety and air quality; the EPA notes that 20 stoves that don’t burn cleanly can combine in a winter to emit more than a ton of fine particle pollution, or PM2.5 (the 2.5 refers to the maximum width of the particles in microns).

Preliminary testing suggests a forced-air, turbulent-jet retrofit can reduce a stove’s PM2.5 emissions by up to 85%, MacCarty said, which is good news on a variety of health fronts. Exposure to particle emissions is linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis and cancer and can aggravate heart and lung disease, according to the EPA.

“Our initial focus is on low-resource and tribal communities but the fundamental combustion discoveries and design rules we develop around the injection of jets of forced air will also apply to wood-burning cookstoves, which are widely used in the developing world,” MacCarty said.

Collaborating with MacCarty from Oregon State are College of Engineering colleagues Chris Hagen, based at OSU-Cascades in Bend, and David Blunck, plus Shaozeng Zhang, assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts.

The team also includes researchers from the Aprovecho Research Center, the Nez Perce tribe, Combustion Consulting Services and Blaze King Industries; it will work with an advisory panel made up of representatives of industry groups, regulatory agencies and regional air quality programs.

KTVZ News Team



  1. Exactly what I/Heatmor was working on in the late 90’s! I’m the one that developed the 400D model for Heatmor. Turbulent air is only part of the equation . . . The real trick is a self adjusting burn chamber that will keep the oxygen/fuel mixture at the optimum ratio’s for clean burning. Another component is adding a catalytic converter (second fire box) to burn any fuel that escapes the main fire box and add that heat back into the heat output of the stove. This is easier with a boiler type system, but can also work with wood (fire place/wood stove) system. My current house uses a fire place with built in catalytic converter, utilizing a fan to transfer the heat from the catalytic converter into the house whenever the temperature senses high temp. in the converter.

  2. Forgot to add . . . my house is 2,808sf, 2 story, heated only by the one fire place. Base board heaters are and have been turned off at the circuit breaker box. Last winter I only used about 1/4 cord of wood to keep the house warm. Of course it’s much more temperate here on the coast and yes, my place is definitely an energy efficient house, but you get the point. We try to keep the inside temp between 60°F and 65°F during the day. During the night, we don’t let the inside temp get below 45°F. It’s proven you sleep better at lower temps and if you’re cold, you add a blanket/quilt/comforter.

    1. Good points, sharder. Our house is here in CO and although we don’t have a wood stove, our energy costs are very low because it is very well insulated. Where we used to live our neighbor had a wood stove as you describe and it was amazing how much heat that thing put out with very little smoke.

  3. Regressives will be outraged by this massive waste of taxpayer money!!! Huge government overreach and threat to our freedom to pollute and trash the environment!!!

    1. Dementia is nothing to joke about. I hate biden and the democrats as much as anyone could but watched an in law suffer and her family with dementia and it wasnt anything to joke about.

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