Cornell graduate students win EPA award for biochar.

A Cornell student team – a cookstove fuel/biochar group – won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award June 19.

The P3 Award competition was held in April at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., and the winners were announced last week. Each winning team now qualifies to receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design.

Student projects were designed to protect people’s health, the environment, encourage economic growth and use natural resources efficiently.

The winning project, “Pyrolytic Cook Stoves and Biochar Production in Kenya: A Whole Systems Approach to Sustainable Energy, Environmental Health and Human Prosperity,” featured graduate students Dorisel Torres, Marie Zwetsloot, Rachel Hestrin and David Guerena, all in the field of crop and soil science; and Jennifer Davis ’13 and Tedman Hsu, M.Eng. ’13, of engineering. Their faculty advisers are Johannes Lehmann, professor of crop and soil science; and Elizabeth Fisher, professor of mechanical engineering.

The students developed pyrolysis cookstoves, a low-oxygen environment, to reduce fuel needed, decrease indoor air pollution and diminish greenhouse gas emissions. Resultant biochar can be added to soil as a soil-amendment or fertilizer to reduce synthetic fertilizer usage and pollution, to sequester carbon, and to improve soil health for crop growth.

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