Haiti is facing erosion and other environmental disasters related to deforestation.
A NASA satellite image of the border between the denuded landscape of Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right).
Haitians burn wood charcoal for 60% of their domestic energy. The excessive use of charcoal requires cutting down trees faster than they are being replaced leaving less than 2% of the Haitian landscape forested. This causes the topsoil to wash away, creates mudslides and further reduces crop yields.
UMass Lowell Mechanical Engineering students Sean Hayes and Michael Stockwell, working with their prototype biomass shredder at the HDSC.
As one alternative to charcoal, HDSC’s student staff has made a biomass cooking fuel using a mix of shredded waste paper, sawdust, and water. Composted in a five-gallon pail for one week, the mixture is compressed into briquettes using a caulking gun with a 1.5 inch diameter PVC tube. After sunbaking the briquettes for several days, they are used in the same manner as charcoal.
UMass Lowell’s engineering students are advancing solutions toward a broader array of combustible local waste by developing mechanical shredders capable of supporting a small business recycling model.