The University of Iowa

In the news: University of Iowa faculty expands search abroad for clean energy

February 9th, 2018

By Elly Woods, The Daily Iowan

In the United States, it takes the equivalent of having 100 light bulbs on all the time to sustain our day-to-day lives on average, says UI Professor H.S. Udaykumar. In the developing world, however, access to energy is scarce.

On Thursday, the University of Iowa Office of Outreach and Engagement held a Lunch & Learn with Udaykumar, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering. He discussed an ongoing project concerning energy sources used for cooking in developing countries.

The geographic areas Udaykumar’s team works on now are mostly located in India. But the type of wood fuel they use in the underdeveloped part of India right now comes with consequences.

“When they use this biomass for cooking, there are many consequences,” Udaykumar said. “The first is forest loss, and the second is the health impact on women and children, the ones who are inside these homes burning this fuel. This amounts to smoking two packs [of cigarettes] a day for the woman and child.”

He said rural homes are extremely polluted, and residents are continually exposed to toxins through inhalation. Now, UI researchers are looking for new, cleaner potential energy sources.

Udaykumar said the team has tried solar cooking, among other methods, but none of them stuck, because the women usually cook indoors, in the early morning and night.

“It’s a very multidisciplinary problem,” Udaykumar said. “It’s not just a science problem.”

So the project has faculty from different departments, including women’s studies, anthropology, urban planning, and geography, aiding it.