Now is the most exciting time in the history of wood fuels.
The modern briquetting machine was invented in Switzerland in the 1930s. Since then, the wood fuel industry has remained largely stagnant.
But, as you may have noticed, products with never-before-seen burning properties have started to appear on the UK market recently. Our very own Night Briquettes are an example of such a fuel.
On our blog and in our marketing materials, we refer to Night Briquettes as a third-generation briquette product.
But what exactly does that term mean? What separates next-gen wood fuels from older offerings? And what benefits can you expect when you make the upgrade?
Read on to find out!
History of Briquettes
If you’ve read our ultimate guide to briquettes, then you know that briquette production is classically separated into three distinct eras. Each era is defined by its main production method and, more importantly, the burning properties of the manufactured product.
Pre-Industrial Composite Fuels (Proto-Briquettes)
People have used basic techniques such as balling, drying, and bundling to give firewood-like properties to shredded material since ancient times.
These early composite wood fuels played an incredibly important role in human history.
However, being much more difficult to make and having much worse burning properties than regular firewood, these “proto-briquettes” were the dictionary definition of an inferior good. They were only used as a substitute product when heat energy was needed and regular firewood was unavailable.
Which was not very often.
Since there was usually enough wood and biomass to satisfy the basic heating and cooking needs of the pre-industrial world.
Heating and cooking represented the majority of the energy needs of the pre-Industrial world.
First Generation Briquettes (1865)
The first documented mention of an industrial briquetting machine dates back to 1865. This is commonly considered to be the birth year of the modern briquette. However, it is very possible that similar machines were in use even earlier and simply weren't documented.
Early briquetting machines were incredibly simple in construction, usually consisting of nothing more than a simple roller.
The production process was also incredibly simple.
The raw peat was first dried to give it better burning properties. During the second stage of the production process, the peat was mixed with a binding agent (the process of making peat briquettes without a binding agent would not be invented and patented until 1924). The peat was then placed into the machine and compacted by the roller. During the final stage of the process, the peat was cut up into brick-sized chunks.
This early method of briquette creation could only supply a limited amount of pressure, so these early briquettes did not have the energy density and heat output of their modern counterparts.
Due to the primitive technology used, these first-gen briquettes were worse than regular coal and firewood in virtually all ways.
Second Generation Briquettes (1920s)
The first modern briquetting machine was created in Switzerland and gained widespread use by the 1930s.
The main innovation was the introduction of a high-power pressing rod that could compact virtually any organic material to a desired shape and density.
The pressing rod could compress the material with a lot more force than the first-generation roller. This increased density allowed second-generation briquettes to match and even surpass the properties of seasoned firewood.
But their biggest selling point was their low price and availability.
As they could be made of various kinds of organic material, briquettes became incredibly popular during the widespread fuel shortages caused by World War II.
That is widely considered the time when briquettes became a truly “mainstream” wood fuel.
Third Generation Briquettes (2020s)
This brings us to today and the main topic of this article.
In the last couple of years, market-leading manufacturers like Lekto began making next-generation briquettes with never-before-seen properties that far exceed those of traditional firewood and earlier briquette products.
This, of course, did not happen in a vacuum and was the direct result of several enabling factors.
The most important of these factors were advances in the scientific understanding of the properties of the blends of various wood fuel materials. Many instances in which composite fuels exceeded the properties of the materials used to make them were discovered. Armed with this information, our in-house team of wood fuel experts tested all possible blend proportions to find the absolute best formula for each possible use case.
The perfection of industrial drying processes also played an important role in the advancement of briquette production as drier materials always burn cleaner, regardless of their composition.
And we cannot avoid mentioning the decades of constant refinement of the briquetting process itself. Today, virtually any combustible biomass can be used to make briquettes. This gives us much more flexibility to make products that are both high-performing and eco-friendly.
Let's take a look at the advantages of next-gen wood fuels by using Lekto Night Briquettes as a case study.
Lekto Night Briquettes
Night Briquettes are the longest-burning wood fuel in human history.
Made from a proprietary mix of sustainably sourced softwood bark, Night Briquettes can burn for an incredible 8 hours. For reference, a premium quality oak log can only burn upwards of 3 hours, whereas most second-gen briquettes have a burn time between 2 hours on the low end and 4 hours on the very high end.
This incredibly long burn time makes Night Briquettes the perfect replacement for harmful coal in overnight heating scenarios.
Traditionally, people had to make a choice. Either use firewood and get up in the middle of the night to add more logs to the stove. Or use coal and suffer the associated health and environmental consequances.
Enter Night Briquettes. They allow people to enjoy all of the long burn time of coal without any of its drawbacks.
In fact, the production of Night Briquettes was optimized to be as environmentally friendly as possible. No trees are harmed for their production. What's more, the Night Briquette manufacturing process actually reduces waste as they are made from traditionally discarded sawmill byproducts.
And thanks to their high energy density and long burn time, Night Briquettes are an amazing choice for saving money during milder weather. Just two of them are needed to keep a stove going for 8 hours. Depending on the quantity you buy, a night of such heating can cost you as little as £1 pound.
But the benefit we hear most about from our customers is, of course, convenience.
Night Briquettes are a perfect choice for any situation when you need heat but can’t tend to the fire. This includes working or studying from home. Enjoying special evenings with your loved ones. Or simply keeping your pets warm while you’re outside the house.
Reading this in September 2021?