It requires no fuel, releases no emissions and costs nothing to power.
More than a billion people around the world rely on kerosene to light their homes. It’s an expensive gas that kicks out carcinogenic toxins into the open spaces where people eat, clean and sleep. But for many, there’s no alternative. London designers Jim Reeves and Martin Riddiford first tried to develop a cheaper solution for home lighting when Solar Aid tasked them with finding a way to reduce the cost of solar lamps, a much vaunted alternative to kerosene.
“We were surprised to see just how expensive the batteries were,” Reeves recalls. “A third of the price was made up by the rechargeable batteries. It has a two or three year life and then its most expensive part wears out.”
It struck Reeves as perverse that so much attention was given to light sources that required energy to be stored. Instead, the pair set about trying to create a light that could generate energy only when it was needed.
Their solution? GravityLight - a simple mechanism that produces more than 20 mins of light every time 10kg of rocks, sand or any other weight is lifted. It needs no charging, releases no emissions and, critically, costs nothing to power.
Families across sub-Saharan Africa currently spend 20-30 per cent of their household income on kerosene. Reeve says that within three to four months, GravityLight, currently retailing at the equivalent of $25 in Kenya, pays for itself.
But the benefits aren’t only financial. Each day, 780 million women and children around the world inhale a volume of smoke equivalent to two packs of cigarettes, and kerosene is a major factor. GravityLight, meanwhile, is clean.
The foundation has recently taken the technology around Kenya in a roadshow sponsored by Shell. Given GravityLight’s commitment to renewable energy, it seems, at first at least, an unlikely alliance.
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