Students Design Affordable Solar Lantern for Sub-Saharan Africa
Forward thinking students have another solar breakthrough. Photo Credit: ScienceDaily
Sub-Saharan Africa is the least electric region on the globe. There, poorer residents must use kerosene lamps (currently the most affordable option) to provide light. The fire-hazardous lamps are expensive to maintain, contribute to global warming and rely on a fuel price that is subject to supply limitations. Two Kansas state students want to change all that. They’ve designed a solar lantern they say will be 30 percent cheaper than other options available now.
KSU senior Tai-Wen Ko and freshman Justin Curry are working on a lantern simple enough to be built locally and efficient enough to be well worth the money. Ko and Curry’s design is simple: a solar panel, battery and white LED light. According to Ko, most solar lanterns on the market now use a fluorescent tube that draws too much power. The students’ design uses only the cheapest materials available, including a sealed lead-acid battery for power storage.
While a new lithium-ion battery is better for the environment, it’s too expensive for poor African residents in need of electricity. The lead in the battery (similar to what you find in your car) is a concern, but Ko is researching the potential of a recycling program for Sub-Saharan Africa to prevent the batteries from being dumped.
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