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Service Learning Without Borders – Turning Peanut Shells to Fuel Briquettes in the Gambia

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Topics in Biomass and Gasification Processes

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1064.1 - 23.1064.9



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Paper Authors

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Hong Zhang Rowan University


Jess W. Everett Rowan University

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Jess Everett, Ph.D., P.E. is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has over 26 years experience as an environmental engineer and professor and has published over 63 refereed journal articles, chapters, and books. He has worked on more than 60 funded projects (totaling over $6M) and has worked with more than 100 Junior and Senior Clinic teams (over 220 different undergraduate students). He has worked with Clinic teams on EWB projects, energy audits, solar assessments and designs, wind assessments, waste assessments, ecological assessments, waste treatment, etc.

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Jessica Tryner Rowan University

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Service Learning Without Borders – Turning Peanut Shell to Fuel Briquette in the Gambia  The Gambia is a small country located at the tip of West Africa. A relative peaceful lifein the past decades brought rapid increment of the population. Since most people stillcannot afford the gas or electricity, they often turn to trees for firewood. The practiceleads to a significant deforestation at about 6% per year. At the meantime, peanut is amajor cash crop for the country, accounting for about 6.9% domestic GDP. Since themain export is the peanut products, the peanut shell is left behind in the villages or fields.Some efforts were made but failed to central process this bio-waste due to the limit of theinfrastructure.One engineering student in our program found these pressing problems in the Gambia inher sophomore year, when they were asked to conduct engineering ethic and sustainableengineering study. As a member of Engineering Without Border, the student and herpeers presented the problems and proposed their solutions to the faculty. That is, todevelop a device and a process that can convert the peanut shell to fuel briquettes at thevillage level. So the local people can burn the briquettes instead of the firewood forheating and cooking. According to their calculation, the peanut shell can provide up toone third of the total fuel needs of the country.The idea was supported via an EPA P3 grant. By consulting the local people and thePeace Corp volunteers in the Gambia, the students developed a series of pressing devicesand processes for the purpose. Then they compared the strength, burning rate andduration of burning of the briquettes, as well the difficulties to obtain binder and processthe material. They finally settled to an easy to follow recipe to process the peanut shellsand a very simple device to press the loose shells to briquettes.In the January of 2012, a student team went to 8 remote villages in rural Gambia. Theydemonstrated the briquetting process to the local people. The team was well received andthe seniors of all villages decided to adopt the method to preserve the dwindling forestwhile supporting the growing community.Figure  1:  Left:  Trees  around  the  villages  are  cut  for  firewood.  Middle:  A  peanut  shell  mountain  near  a  Gambia  town.  Right:  Peanut  shell  briquettes  made  by  local  Gambia  people  following  our  recipe  and  instruction.

Zhang, H., & Everett, J. W., & Tryner, J. (2013, June), Service Learning Without Borders – Turning Peanut Shells to Fuel Briquettes in the Gambia Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22449

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