While electricity is a commodity we all enjoy, bills can get rather expensive. But, if you can't afford gas, or want to keep your bills low, what can you do? You can use this:
An ordinary handheld lamp, which requires no fuel.
Designed by the brother-sister team, Raphael and Aisa Mijeno, this lamp is powered by a few strips of metal and saltwater. The two live in the Philippines and created this lamp because many rural communities do not have access to electricity there. This reality affected Aisa who connected with one such community while working for Greenpeace. She came to realize that there was a major problem that needed solving.
Aisa and Raphael Mijeno with the oversized check they received for winning the IdeaSpace Philippines start-up competition.
As most residents live without electricity, it forces them to use kerosene-powered lanterns as their primary source of light. But acquiring kerosene is no easy feat as most do not have access to transportation. Consequently, the villagers walk for 12 hours just to buy a bottle of kerosene, which will serve them for up to two days. Saltwater, however is not only cheap, but abundant as most families in the Philippines (including low-income households) have access to three main things: water, rice and salt.
The lamp can run for eight hours at a time, on one glass of water and two teaspoons of salt. But, how does it work? Two different types of metal are submerged in the saltwater. This throws off excess electrons, which travel from one metal to the other via a wire, producing electricity that powers the LEDs. Furthermore, unlike kerosene lanterns, the saltwater lamps are not a fire hazard and can therefore be safely set up inside a home. And, adding to the lamp's benefits, those who live in coastal communities can use ocean water instead of a homemade saline solution.
Aisa Mijeno with residents of a family without electricity, and a prototype lamp.
The electrode rods in the lamps need to be replaced twice a year, still, the brother-sister duo expect that the lamp will prove to be more convenient and cost-effective for families in rural areas than buying gas for a traditional fuel lamp.
So far, the lamps have generated a lot of interest around Southeast Asia and India. And the two have already received major support from start-up incubators across East Asia, and grants from organizations like USAID. The company set up by the Mijenos, SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting), have big goals too.
Eventually, Aisa and Raphael hope to build a saltwater-powered generator that can power a house. And possibly, after that, a saltwater power plant. For now though, they hope to get the lamps into mass production. The first prototype is said to be out before the year ends and once it does hit the market, thousands of people in the Philippines, and potentially around the world, could benefit tremendously.