Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lighting up Africa off the grid

Just as Africa skipped the wired phone technology and moved to wireless, there are opportunities to move directly to off-the-grid electricity. One of the biggest problems in the poor regions of Africa is that, once the sun sets for about twelve hours, there is no light to study by. This hampers education.

Kerosene is expensive, difficult to transport and causes breathing problems. But some inventors are coming up with ways to resolve these problems.
The SociaLite lamp, designed by students at Cooper Union in New York and Wa Palytechnic University in Ghana.
According to a recent NY Times article, the socialite is a central solar charging panel that would be owned by one person or a group. They could gather sunlight and use it to charge these large batteries which then give off light at night. They could pay for the light charging by asking people to pay to have their cell-phones charged.

Another neat idea invented by four Harvard women is the sOckett. A soccer ball that stores energy imparted by being kicked and then allows a lamp to be plugged into it at night. Check out the cool video:

But light at night is not the only problem. People living squeezed together in shanty-towns around the world lack light in the day. To the rescue comes the coolest idea yet.

Take an empty 1 liter soda bottle, fill it with water and a little chlorine and stick it through the roof of your home. This gathers light from outside and distributes it into the building. Watch this amazing video for how to build one for next to nothing. It only costs one free empty soda bottle, a small piece of roofing, some rubber cement and a few drops of chlorine. In this case, the charity is teaching the people to fish, rather than giving them fish.

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