High > Low < Tech

2 weekly blog resisting the second law


December 2014

Happy Hollidays

Dear dearest reader. Because of the Hollidays and a lack of acces to computers “Chapter 7 – Hyperreality” will be published in two weeks together with “Chapter 8 – Bamboo Boogie”. Stay tuned. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New year.
Yours truly
This guy.



Chapter 6 – Blisters

Emancipator – Dusk till dawn

With only a day left at Barefoot College it is time for a recap. What have I done? What accomplished?

With no sense of time left what so ever it is hard to piece together the past two weeks. But I have the scratches and blisters to help me.


3 blisters on my right had from cutting plastic into pieces [Report #1]. 4 or 5 blisters on my left hand from chopping wood. Scratches and sting marks from setting up a compost. Coal dust still sticking under my nails from … well … making coal [Report #2]. Sun bleached hair, the pattern of my sandals dirt and sun burned in my feet. Plus countless burn marks from the experiments with the solar cooker. I barely noticed them in the end. Once I got so caught up in my experiment that I didn’t notice that my pants were set on fire by the concentrated sun rays. Good times.


I decided to put two of my reports on the blog in hope to receive more ideas for further development.

Barefoot asks everyone to name three things they learned, relearned and unlearned. So here I go:

l learned to be (more) inclusive in my thoughts, developments and experiments. In a community that is vital – especially if you want it to benefit the community. You can’t just make something and then expect everyone to understand or accept it. You won’t even get it done at all without including the community. At first it seems like including more people and their opinions is slowing down and frustrating the process. And it does – well kind of. It will take time to get to the next step but this prevents you from tunnel vision and shooting of in one direction. And when you let go and trust then you will be surprised. The shared responsibility gives you more rest in your head. Others will think of things you forgot. And there will be unexpected ideas given to you, with as bonus the joy of the givers when they see their idea accepted and implemented.

I relearned that the solutions and the technologies to solve our problems are all there. It is all possible. What lacks is the will, the environment, the mindset to implement them.

I unlearned to have a hot shower every day.


I learned how to do basic masonry and hindi.

I relearned to read a book with relish.

I unlearned to doubt my capabilities.


I learned to appreciate good and diverse food to an extend never known to me before. Try eating chapati, rice and daal with some veg three times a day for a couple weeks and then go somewhere else and have a four cheese pizza and a mint lemonade. Then you’ll fully understand what I mean.

I relearned to go with the flow.

I unlearned to eat meat (except chicken).


Tomorrow morning the train will take me to Jaipur. And from there I will go south. I won’t leave India just yet. But end of January I will, I have too. By now I have totally given up on my originally route to travel around the world. I just follow the possibilities to learn and see. So I travel around in the world.


All photos (except indicated differently) in this blog are my own and are not allowed to be used without my explicit permission.

Report #2 – Biobriquettes (pending)



§ Explore possibilities to make biobriquettes from foresting leftovers (twigs, leaves, wood chips)



§ Biobriquettes exhaust less fumes and tar than burning wood thus decreasing health issues

§ the briquettes can provide employment and income for villagers

§ the usage of briquettes can potentially decrease wood usage and help prevent deforestation




§ for the 1. experiment Subambool seed pods where colected

§ the seed pods where carbonized (anaerobically heated) in a paint barrel using the solar cooker present at barefoot college

§ after a little more than half an hour the seed pods where carbonized, some leaves had started burning as a small amount of oxigen managed to reach the material

§ the barrel was covered and left to cool off and suffocate the flames

§ the carbonized pods where smashed to create a coal powder

§ the coal powder was mixed 3:1 (volume ratio) with sand (binder)

§ water was added to the mixture

§ the created sludge was filled in a crude mold and compressed by hammering

§ the created briquettes where left 3 days to dry

§ the briquettes were lid up using some twigs and paper, after taking fire the briquettes would slowly glow

§ the final product was very fragile, slight pressure would make the briquettes crumble, this is believed to be due to the inferior binding qualities of the sand as well as the inferior compressing and thus low density of the briquette due to the improvised mold

§ also not the whole briquettes would burn as the briquettes would fall apart due to its fragile nature

§ it was tried to heat water using the briquettes in a plant pod, the water became quite hot but would not boil, this is believed to be due to the inferior “stove”-properties of the plant pod



§ for the 2. experiment Sumbabool seed pods where colected

§ the barrel was more tightly packed this time

§ a different lid was choosen to better prevent oxygen from reaching the material

§ material again was carbonized and smashed into coal powder

§ a differents sand was choosen

§ mixing ratio with sand was again 3:1 (volume ratio)

§ experiment pending (improved mold for briquettes needed)


Conclusions (so far)


§ density has to be improved

§ dedicated mold needed

§ further experiments with binders needed




§ pending









Report #1 – Solar Plastic Recycling



§ Find ways to recycle abundant waste plastic utilizing the Scheffler solar cooker




§ As there is no garbage disposal/recycling system in place all (plastic) garbage gets burned on location causing carcinogenic fumes

§ The aim is to use abundant resources (plastic waste, sand, solar heat) to produce lacking goods (containing vessels e.g. pods, tagari, etc.)


Background Information


§ Plastics are divided into seven sub groups

§ Each plastic displays different properties in terms of melting temperature, strength and flexibility among others

§ The types most present in barefoot are PET (plastic bottles, bags), HDPE (bottle caps, medicine cotainers), LDPE (garbage/nursery bags) and candy/food wrappers for which the exact material is not known at the moment

§ PET and HDPE as well as LDPE are good recycable materials


Experiment Series

1. PET

§ melting PET with the small scheffler solar cooker

§ the result was a brittel hard plastic that stuck strongly to the heated container

§ the temperature in some spots rose so fast that the pet burned



§ melting bottle caps with the small scheffler solar cooker

§ the result was hard steardy bricket partly burned on the upper side


3. Stone Oven

§ as experiment 1. and 2. showed that the temperature development in the container was uneven

§ it was attempted to use marble plates as heat buffer

§ similtaniously it was test if and how strong melted plastic woud stick to the stone

§ the samples were tea cup (PET), bottle label (?), cookie wrapper (?), bottle cap (HDPE); from let to right, top to bottom

§ the result was that all 4 samples stuck to the stone

§ bottle label and cookie wrapper showed signs of seperation of plastic from rest material



4. Composite

§ it was attempted to reproduce a composite of melted plastic (in this case PET) and sand in the big solar cooker

§ research had brought up a ratio for plastic and sand of approxematly 30:70 [2]

§ it was assumed that this ration concerns the weight

§ during the melting process this ratio was let go, focus was set on getting any result in terms of composit at all

§ research had brought up that the sand should be ideally river sand[3] or marble dust[2] dried and pre-cooked as to eliminate all organic matter

§ the sand used in this experiment was simple dry sand from the street that was not pre-cooked

§ the (cooled down) result was a brown, strong material, slightly brittel in its whole, broken of pieces could be hammered flat

§ material had stony feeling to it

§ the produced (hot) sludge was tough and hard to work with


5. HDPE Mirror Embedding

§ Attempt to embed a mirror in an HDPE frame

§ The mold was filled with pieces of HDPE and placed in the marble stone oven

§ The stone oven was the placed in the big scheffler solar cooker

§ When the pieces were melted the oven was removed from the solar cooker and mirror was placed in the plastic. The material then was first shock cooled and then allowed to slowly cool down

§ The stone oven did not suffice to spread the heat more evenly. Some parts were close to burning while others were yet to be melted. This partly due to the spread focus of the collector

§ While cooling down the shrink of the material cracked the mirror.

§ The complicated removal of the product from the mold further broke the mirror

§ The mold is made of tin and coated with a thin protective plastic layer

§ the plastic layer stuck to the product



6. PET Composite Molding

§ attempt to produce a bigger amount of PET-sand-composite and mold it into a shallow pod

§ sand was seefed and pre-cooked

§ community was involved to watch and participate in the experiment

§ mold was an existing pod covered with newspaper to prevent sticking

§ to prevent sticking of the spatel kitchen oil was used and for curiosity reasons also added to the mixture

§ Produced sludge was tough and hard to work. This was mainly due to infirrior mixture of sand and PET as well as the uneven distribution of heat and thus the uneven melt. A significant amount of the PET did not reach melting point

§ Amount usable sludge produced was not enough to produce a pod

§ product smells of kitchen oil even more than a week after the experiment

§ product was strong and flexible but breakable by hand


7. HDPE Sticking Test

§ it was tested if HDPE would be removable from the mold even after the protecting layer had been removed during experiment 5.

§ result: it was possible to remove the samples with the help of tools

[photos lost]

8. HDPE Composite Molding

§ attempt to produce a bigger amount of HDPE-sand-composite and mold it into a shallow pod using the big scheffler solar cooker

§ same process as in experiment 6

§ HDPE (ca. 150[°C]) melts at lower temperatures than PET (ca. 250 [°C])

§ it was possible to create an amount of homogeneous sludge

§ sludge still was tough and hard to work with although better than the PET composite

§ cooled product was hard and strong yet slightly flexible

§ drop from 1.50 [m] broke a piece of


9. LDPE Compostite Molding

§ attempt to produce a bigger amount of LDPE-sand-composite and mold it into a shallow pod using the big scheffler solar cooker

§ same process as in experiment 6. and 8.

§ LDPE (ca. 110[°C]) melts at lower temperatures than PET (ca. 250 [°C]) and HDPE (ca. 150[°C])

§ it was possible to create an amount of sludge

§ sludge was less homogeneous than HDPE composite but more than PET composite

§ sludge seemed tar like

§ cooled product is quite hard yet gets very flexible and weaker with reduced thickness

§ depending on material thickness product can be pulled apart




§ recycling plastic with a solar cooker in to composite products seems possible

§ main issue at the moment is process controlling

§ heat has to be distributed more evenly

§ heating up has to be more controlled

§ the mixture of the composites has to be optimized (ratio, choosen sand)

§ in all composite experiments the sand was heated up first in order to get a more even heat distribution

§ problems mainly occured in the mixing process when a homogeneous sludge was to be formed

§ mixing and kneading helped the process

§ mixing and kneading efforts were inferior as they had to be done by hand with improvised gloves

§ best product came from HDPE composite








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