Usability is a critical factor in a cook’s decision to purchase or adopt an improved cookstove, as well as to continue use long-term. While the study and incorporation of usability is common in product design for high-income countries, there has historically been little material available to help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency with which a cookstove meets a user’s needs and as a result, usability has often been overlooked.

This protocol is intended to give designers and implementers a tool to understand and compare user impressions of traditional and improved cookstoves in low-income countries. This information may be used to better balance user needs with technical performance, emissions, and other objectives to increase the overall uptake and impact of improved cookstoves.

Complete Usability Testing Protocol for Cookstoves, Version 1.0

Usability Data Collection Form, Version 1.0

Usability Data Procesing Spreadsheet, Version 1.0

OSU's Associate Professor Jamon Van den Hoek is using satellite imagery to monitor vegetation changes, settlement dynamics, and climate hazards in humanitarian contexts. Check out his 4-part NASA ARSET training on humanitarian applications of satellite imagery here:

Accurate, accessible methods for monitoring and evaluation of improved cookstoves are necessary to optimize designs, quantify impacts, and ensure programmatic success. Despite recent advances in cookstove monitoring technologies, there are no existing devices that autonomously measure fuel use in a household over time and this important metric continues to rely on in-person visits to conduct measurements by hand. To address this need, researchers at Oregon State University developed the Fuel, Usage, and Emissions Logger (FUEL Sensor), an integrated sensor platform that quantifies fuel consumption and cookstove use by monitoring the mass of the household’s fuel supply with a load cell.  When paired with cookstove body temperature sensors and air quality sensors in the same household, a comprehensive picture of an intervention's impact can be created.

To date, the system has been deployed and tested in Guatemala, Honduras, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Nepal, and Malawi in collaboration with a variety of global organizations, including Climate Solutions ConsultingMédecins Sans FrontièresRed Panda NetworkInternational Lifeline Fund, and CQuest Capital

Some journal papers presenting these findings have been published recently:

H. Miller, O. Lefebvre, N. MacCarty. Evaluation of an integrated suite of sensors to monitor fuel consumption, air quality, and usage of household stoves. In revision for Development Engineering.

J. Ventrella, O. Lefebvre, N. MacCarty. Techno-economic comparison of the FUEL sensor and Kitchen Performance Test to quantify household fuel consumption with multiple cookstoves and fuels. Development Engineering 5:100047. 2020. 

J. Ventrella, S. Zhang, N. MacCarty. Integrating rapid ethnographic techniques in design for development: a case study for design of a cookstove monitoring system. Design Studies. 2020. Impact factor: 2.640. 

J. Ventrella and N. MacCarty. Monitoring impacts of clean cookstoves and fuels with the Fuel, Usage, and Emissions Logger (FUEL): field testing and reporting capabilities. Energy for Sustainable Development. 52:82-95. 2019.

Project Purpose

To quantify and compare the usage, fuel consumption, and personal and/or ambient PM2.5 exposure implications between the baseline, stove only, and stove + jet-flame kit (JFK) using an integrated sensor system for 10 days for each phase in 55 rural households in Malawi. These data will be useful for understanding the impact of the stove and JFK in real world use.

Secondary Benefits

To build capacity in the CQuest Capital (CQC) Direct team in Malawi to conduct sensor-based monitoring studies for CQC projects, to introduce the integrated sensor system and OSU researchers to the CQC network in Malawi and beyond, to publish scientific papers demonstrating the performance of the jet-flame and integrated sensor system.


The OSU team led by Dr. Nordica MacCarty will support the CQC team remotely and in person (for 1-2 weeks) to collect data in a set of 40 households in three phases over a 12-week period in the schedule shown below. First baseline data will be collected (Phase 1), and then the CQC stove will be installed and users will be trained to use it and given the opportunity to acclimate to its use for 10 days. Then the CQC stove performance will be monitored for 10 days (Phase 2), followed by installation, training, and acclimation to the Jet-Flame Kit (JFK) for a 10-day period and then additional 10 days of monitoring with the JFK (Phase 3).

Data in each phase will be collected using the integrated suite of sensors developed by Climate Solutions Consulting (CSC) and OSU to monitor:

  • Stove usage and stacking with temperature measurements (EXACT sensors),
  • Fuel consumption profiles with a real-time scale (FUEL sensors),
  • Real-time air quality magnitude (HAPEx sensors), 
  • Average gravimetric PM2.5 concentrations for ambient and/or personal exposure measurements (µPump and filter systems)
  • Electric use sensors will monitor the hours of use of JFK electronic accessories including the Jet-Flame, cellphone chargers, and LED lightbulbs provided by the study.

This suite of sensors will be launched in each household and left to collect data for 10 days before the field staff returns to collect the data and equipment. If the gravimetric measurements are added, field staff will need to return every 24 hours to move the systems to cycle through each set of 6 households throughout the 10 days. At the beginning and end of each monitoring period, survey data will be collected including the number of people eating in the household and the moisture content of fuel samples will be measured.

Researchers at Oregon State University have begun a $2.5M project funded by the US Department of Energy with an additional $25k from the US EPA. This project will involve incorporating jets of forced air into the combustion chamber of cordwood heating stoves used primarily in rural and underserved communities. Additional information on the project is available here and here

Four OSU faculty will work across Corvallis and Cascades to collaborate with industry, non-profits, and tribal communities to bring cleaner air to communities. Check back here for updates after we begin in Fall 2022!

Flow path diagram showing team roles, activities, and outcomes.

Under the guidance of professor Kendra Sharp (the Richard and Gretchen Evans Professor of Humanitarian Engineering), students completed their capstone project working with a nonprofit organization, TERREWODE. This summer, they are conducting additional field research in Uganda.

Based in Soroti in eastern Uganda, the group aims to improve the lives of women suffering from a medical condition known as obstetric fistula. This devastating problem occurs when, during prolonged childbirth and without adequate medical care, tissue in the birth canal is damaged. The resulting fistula, or hole, allows urine or feces to leak uncontrollably. Victims may be shunned by family members and reduced to a life of poverty and isolation.

Fortunately, effective medical treatment is available. With support from the Worldwide Fistula Fund, TERREWODE works to educate women about the risks, to raise money for medical costs and to increase access to care, which is often out of reach in rural areas.

Inspired by Oregon photographer Joni Kabana, TERREWODE is developing a soap-making business to provide survivors of fistula with a source of income. The students have three objectives for their four-week stay in Africa: identify a practical, local source of electricity so soap makers wouldn’t have to worry about periodic interruptions to Uganda’s power grid; determine if locally available ingredients can be used for increased soap production; find ways to improve efficiency and scale-up the soap-making process.

Read the full story on OSU's Terra website. 

Many sources suggest the tremendous potential for hydropower generation in Pakistan. However, the current lack of accurate hydrological data and quantitative metrics makes it very difficult to estimate the distribution of power potential across that region. This project will fill this knowledge gap, promoting the optimal utilization of Pakistan’s national hydropower resources.

Conceptual Power Density Map (normalized) for Northern Pakistan. Credit: Thomas M. Mosier, OSU.

In the past, high-resolution models have not been practical for areas like Pakistan which have sparse meteorological measurements; however, more physically representative models are now possible due to advances in climatological downscaling techniques. Our group has produced open-source and freely-available modeling tools that can be used to generate climate data (temperature and precipitation) on an approximately 1-km grid over any global land region.

To download the tools and learn more, visit our website.

Through this modeling framework, better gridded time-series of runoff are derivable for the past 100 years, enabling long-term trends and variation in monthly runoff to be analyzed at a higher resolution than previously possible. We are presently working on extending some of these methods to future scenarios to better assess site stability and impacts of climate change. Snow storage and glacier contributions to runoff must be forecast to estimate future viability of microhydro installations because their contributions account for over 50% of the stream flow to more than half of the tributaries to the Indus River. We are also currently working on improved handling of snow storage and glacier contributions in hydrological models suitable for data-scarce regions or for reduced computational cost.

The final portion of this assessment study is to develop a programmable metric for optimization of microhydro unit siting. The metric will likely take into account not only the power potential at each cell but also parameters such as optimal efficiency ranges of the available microhydro units. If there are other human considerations, such as proximity to a village or existing electricity transmission infrastructure, these could also be included given appropriate input information. An example of our envisioned mapping tool is shown in the figure included here.

Throughout this project, we have been working with faculty at the Center for Energy Sciences at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad, Pakistan. NUST is one of the top technical universities in Pakistan. For more information about the Center for Energy Sciences, please visit their website.

The international Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory explores the crucial connections between weather, crop productivity, and food security.

Understanding the patterns of rainfall, evaporation, and temperature are vital to our grasp of these connections – and yet we suffer from a profound lack of scientific data. TAMHO works to address the crucial problem of minimal African hydro-meteorological data by creating a network of thousands of ground-sensing stations to the provide the critical climate data that will allow scientists, governments and local farmers access to high-quality, free data.

TAHMO will make this high-quality data freely available to governments, scientists, and farmers in real time via the Internet from stations installed around the continent. The project will make it possible for Africa to leapfrog to one of the best-monitored continents in the world.

To learn more about the TAMHO project, contact its OSU lead, Dr. John Selker of OSU’s Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.