Lighting is one of the most important things in our lives. Without light the day ends as the sun goes down and both learning and work are cut off as soon as daylight fades. But over 1.3 billion people in the world have no access to electricity. That’s almost 1-in-5!
For many, the solution is an old-fashioned kerosene lamp. This is often little more than a wick stuck in a glass bottle. There are a number of problems associated with this approach:
- Fumes – It is estimated that more than 750 million women and children inhale kerosene fumes that are the equivalent of smoking 40 cigarettes per day
- Fire – Safety is a major issue. In India alone, 1.5 million people suffer burns each year, largely as a result overturned kerosene lamps
- Economic Cost – Kerosene is a relatively expensive solution, with the poorest people allocating as much as 30% of their income to the purchase of kerosene for fuel.
- Environmental Cost – Kerosene lamps are responsible for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions.
A better solution is to use a free source of energy that is available the whole day; one that reduces the harmful health and environmental side effects that accompany kerosene lamps. UK-based startup GravityLight believes that they have developed just such a solution.
Gravity has been used as an energy source before – long case pendulum clocks for example – and this allows the energy to be stored in a way that doesn’t require expensive batteries. The light works by a person simply lifting a weight. The attached mechanism (pictured below) allows the weight to gradually descend and generate light for 20 minutes. It takes seconds to lift the weight and costs nothing to operate, as the fuel comes from that few seconds of kinetic energy. This can then be used to safely extend the working day beyond nightfall, which is great for areas where electricity is either unavailable or unreliable. It allows people to improve their education and life chances, or even start their own business.
As well as offering a chance for people to have light in their homes, GravityLight is building the assembly line in Kenya, offering jobs and opportunities to the people who need it most. Via an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, the company aims to raise US $199,000 to fund the project. In just the first 9 days they’ve got over 50% of that target!
GravityLight is not just an idea. Field-testing has already taken place all over the world, getting lights into homes and finding out what works and what doesn’t. The lights that this campaign is funding represent the latest, enhanced version. The result is a product that has a chance to make a real difference to people, helping them to escape the fuel poverty cycle, stay safe and improve their lives. That’s something worth aspiring to.