New solar lamp for developing countries like India

Written by PTI | London | Updated: Apr 21 2014, 22:54pm hrs
A Swiss start-up has developed a new solar lamp that is more effective, safer and less expensive than the traditional oil lamp used by more than one billion people in the world, including in India.

To overcome the many problems posed by kerosene lamps used by 1.6 billion people across the globe, LEDsafari has developed an ingenious system for a do it yourself lamp made from equipment available on site, such as electrical wire, a mobile phone battery and empty bottles.

More than 200 people in India, Kenya and Tanzania who attended an educational three-day workshop organised by the start-up to educate and train the beneficiaries are already receiving the economic and health benefits of this ingenious system and are enjoying daily light through this process.

"Using kerosene poses many problems. Financial problems are first: the USD 2-3 per week spent on fuel often represents 20 per cent of a family's budget," researchers said.

Kerosene is extremely toxic when burned, and daily use equals the inhalation of smoke from 40 cigarettes, often increasing the risk of serious lung diseases, according to a recent study by the University of Berkeley.

At the global level, this releases 265 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Added to this is the danger of the device itself, which causes severe burns on millions of people each year, said the researchers.

Govinda Upadhyay, PhD student in the Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory at the Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPF), came up with the idea to develop this bare-bones but effective lamp.

Designed to be made by anyone, these lamps require nothing more than locally-found equipment. Only the solar panels are ordered from abroad. Five to six hours of charging in the Sun is enough to give four to five hours of light.

There is no patent to impede the widespread use of the system developed by the researcher. Only an electric cable, mobile phone battery, an on/off switch and LED are needed.

The shade can be customised, made with empty bottles or boxes of various shapes.

The design has already been field tested since the founder of the start-up and his team have already visited several regions in India, Tanzania and Kenya to disseminate their knowledge.

The materials needed for making 100 lamps weighs 1kg easy to fit in a carry-on.

"Globetrotters who like to mix business with pleasure can attend a day of training with the start-up in Switzerland," Upadhyay said.

"They then go share this new knowledge with a village in a developing country for three days before going on vacation. It adds a humanitarian touch that fans of travelling off the beaten track appreciate," said Upadhyay.