Briquette Brigade 2014

Our Group & Interventions
First Week Trials
Second Week Trials
Third Week Trials
Fourth Week Trials Fifth Week Trials
Sixth Week Trials Seventh Week Trials Final Conclusions & Reflections Where Next? GapMinder Data


Traditional cooking fuels pose several issues, including cost (for LPG, propane, or similar fuels) and scarcity due to deforestation or large amounts of time spent gathering it (for wood). A method to produce alternative fuels from readily available waste materials could be developed to reduce this dependence, while providing a wide array of other benefits with few downsides.


The Briquette Brigade has two goals that will be approached during this project. The first is to develop and test several combinations of waste materials to determine ideal materials and combinations that can be used for briquettes. Possible materials will include newspaper, sawdust, corn and rice husks, coffee and tea waste, and leaves, among others.

The second goal will be to construct a manually operated press that can be assembled without the use of a welder. This is to make it more accessible to areas where machining may not be available locally. It also adds the attraction of a DIY kit for people to construct at home when marketing it to developed communities like the US. This product will be an attractive addition to the already popular green revolution in many first world countries.

If our team is successful in completing both of our goals, we will have designed an alternative fuel that will repurpose waste, reduce indoor air pollution, provide a new income niche, and slow down deforestation. We will be focusing on Nepal as our target location for these briquettes, since Will has had experience with their culture and processes.

Some potential issues with the project are that the briquettes may not burn as efficiently or as hot when compared to wood or gas. The other issue is that we are not yet sure how long each briquette will take to make. Since this a only a quarter-long project, time will be an issue.


Fuel Type Briquette LPG Propane Wood
Criteria Weighting
Cost 5 3 1 1 3
Ease of use 4 2 3 3 3
Gathering time 2 2 2 2 1
Air quality 3 2 3 3 1
Energy production 4 1 3 3 2
Reliance on environment 3 3 2 2 1
Locality 4 3 1 1 2
Independent of industrial support 4 2 1 1 3

Background Information

Nepal & Sustainable Technologies

The foundation of this project idea came from Will’s work in Nepal making briquettes from locally sourced waste. These briquettes could be tailored to the specific resources of different areas as a way to address the severe deforestation caused by the use of wood fuels. Ultimately, we want to continue this type of production, looking into different material combinations and how well they burn.

Aprovecho Briquette Information

We got in contact with Don Nason, who directed us to the Engineers Without Borders’ open source on DIY Biomass Briquettes and presses, which serves as a very insightful compendium on different simple press designs, expectations when using certain materials, and specific caloric values for heat produced by each material.
Biomass Fuel Briquettes

Briquettes Around the World

Uganda Study and What We Learned From It
Urban Uganda Briquettes

Briquettes are an alternative fuel source that is currently gaining popularity in Uganda. They have been successfully integrated into the economy in other developing nations such as China and Thailand. Briquettes use composed of commonly found organic household waste, such as peanut shells, banana peels, corn husks, sawdust etc. and are compressed either by hand, or by machine into small dense products that be used in replacement of charcoal and/or excess amounts of wood harvested from nearby forests.

Things we will be focusing on:
-Use materials with a high Nitrogen content
-Make the briquettes as dense as possible
-Try to make briquettes that will burn for more than 30 minutes

uganda briquette.jpg