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Power Earth

LEDs Lighting Up the African Darkness 182

Posted by kdawson
from the heart-of-lighting dept.
Peace Corps Online writes "In a non-electrified society, life is defined by the sun and little is accomplished once it sets around 6 pm. Only 19 percent of rural areas in Ghana have electricity. The rest use foul-smelling kerosene lamps to light their huts, which pollute, provide little light and are major fire hazards. But now Philips has partnered with KITE, a not-for-profit Ghanaian organization, to bring artificial light to villages that have no electricity. The new Philips products include a portable lantern which provides bright white light where it is needed, the Dynamo Multi LED self-powered (wind-up) flashlight that provides 17 minutes of light from two minutes hand winding, and the 'My Reading Light,' which is a solar-powered reading light with built-in rechargeable battery. 'People can now do things in the evening,' says Harriette Amissah-Arthur, KITE's director. 'If you could only see the joy these products bring the villagers. You look at their faces; you have to see it to believe it.'"
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LEDs Lighting Up the African Darkness

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  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:04AM (#27062329) Homepage

    This isn't the first product Philips have produced for developing countries.

    See wood-burning stove: http://www.research.philips.com/newscenter/archive/2006/060227-woodstove.html [philips.com]

    I wish they would make them available to buy in the developed world though. I'd love some of this gear for outdoor pursuits.

    • by D4C5CE (578304)

      wish they would make them available to buy in the developed world though. I'd love some of this gear

      Driving up volume, cost down, in a buy-one-donate-one, OLPC kind of way...

      • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @06:47AM (#27062525) Journal

        In my experience, most people would rather pay a fraction of the price of a second item.

        Ex: $150 + $150 = bad
        $150*1.25 (With a sticker: "20% donated to providing blah in 3rd world countries.") will get more buyers.

        We see the same thing in the games industry. People don't want to pay $90 for a content-packed game. They want to pay $30, plus $30 for an expansion if they like it, and another $30 for another expansion.

        In my opinion, it is somewhat likely that OLPC would've done better offering laptops in the developed world for slightly more, rather than double. It'd drive the cost of production down quite a bit, get more exposure(which means more donations and support), and it's cheaper for the consumer.

      • by aliquis (678370)

        Twice the price, none for you unless you are lucky and have to pay for two! But don't worry, none for the children either!

        Must trusted vaporware ever. It's almost as if you can see it!

        "100 dollar for a laptop? BS!", and yes, it was =P

    • For the most part when the people do real outdoor pursuits (I am not talking about campers and the like) Light Weight is key, A lot of these products for the developing countries are a bit heavy and hard to move. Also if they are too convenient then you get rid of the point of camping. The point of camping is starting a nice fire and slow roasting your food. Or use a small and light backpacker stove where you fill with a Light Gas Pump it up light it and whoosh you burn off you eyebrows but have a nice lit

    • Things like the solar cookers [solarcookers.org] project are far geekier than a simple wood burning stove! Cooking food with reflected sunlight, even with snow on the ground, is surprisingly neat. Also for developing countries it's a way to cook without using any natural resources.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chas (5144)

        Also for developing countries it's a way to cook without using any natural resources.

        Except...sunlight...and the materials consumed to make the stove in the first place...

        I think you meant to say "non-renewable".

        Whoops! Opened my mouth again...

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      High-efficiency stoves have been around longer than 2005. The rocket stove [wikipedia.org] design preheats intake air to improve efficiency. There are many designs and they can be built out of cans, drums, bricks, clay, et cetera. For that matter, I have a $3 solar flashlight I got from the Grocery Outlet that makes a dandy reading or work light (you can hang it on your shirt.) It's nice to see someone giving them to people who need them, though. The simple truth is that if you help people help themselves they'll remember,

    • by ghostis (165022)

      http://www.zzstove.com/sierra.html [zzstove.com]

      is similar, except simpler and AA powered. More to the point, it's actually for sale :-).

      Also, while the Phillips' thermoelectric generator is really cool, I suspect it AAs+{solar,hand,etc}charger may be more available around the world. Fixing the generator might pretty challenging in certain parts of the world. OTOH, Phillips has some pretty good engineering chops, so maybe it never needs fixing! :-D

      -Ghostis

    • by Deagol (323173)
      Google wood gas stoves [woodgas.com] for plans and vendors. Most require a battery (or something) to power the down-draft fan, but there are plans for stoves not needing a fan. Several videos on the Tube about their use and making your own. That, and "rocket stoves", which are cool, too (I've got a half-assed prototype of one of these on my back porch right now, and it's fairly effective).
  • by raynet (51803) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @07:04AM (#27062591) Homepage

    The rest use foul-smelling kerosene lamps to light their huts, which pollute, provide little light and are major fire hazards.

    I am the only one who thinks kerosene lamps actually do smell quite nice.

    • Re:Camping memories (Score:4, Informative)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @07:40AM (#27062777) Journal

      I am the only one who thinks kerosene lamps actually do smell quite nice.

      The smell depends on the fuel. Kerosene can contain varying amounts of sulfur and other odour-inducing substances. Better grades have less odour, and may even have some fragrances added, but cost more. I suppose that the nice-smelling varieties are less common in poorer countries. In fact, they probably mix other cheaper fuels (such as diesel) into the kerosene they do have, adversely affecting soot and smell.

    • Kerosine lamps FTW! (Score:4, Informative)

      by EWAdams (953502) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @11:03AM (#27064461) Homepage

      I spent some time in northern Sudan as a child. We had kerosine lamps that used wicks, and Petromax pressure lamps that used a mantle (like the Coleman lamps in the USA). As an 8-year-old I loved having my own kerosine lamp to read by in bed. Yeah, it was dim -- but in a pitch black room with dark-adapted eyes, it was plenty.

      They DO pollute, they ARE a fire hazard... but the world will be a little poorer when the last kerosine lamp is gone.

  • Not so long ago. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @07:40AM (#27062779) Homepage Journal

    "The rest use foul-smelling kerosene lamps to light their huts, which pollute, provide little light and are major fire hazards."

    In other words, the exact same type of lighting my grandfather's household relied on when he was a child. It's easy to forget that there are many people alive today that only had access to very primitive technology when they were young. And it wasn't because they couldn't afford it, but because it didn't exist anywhere on earth.

    While I am sympathetic to the plight of countries that cannot afford modern technology for their entire population, and the massive infrastructure required to support it, I do keep in mind that we are talking about a gap of only a few generations - not centuries or millenia.

    • by langelgjm (860756)

      While I am sympathetic to the plight of countries that cannot afford modern technology for their entire population, and the massive infrastructure required to support it, I do keep in mind that we are talking about a gap of only a few generations - not centuries or millenia.

      Is your proposal that we wait a few generations and see if they've caught up?

      While I understand where you're coming from, I don't think the fact that we're not far removed from "primitive" technology is a good reason to not worry about the state of the developing world.

      It's striking to compare photos from the Great Depression to the conditions of some modern day countries, but the reason some places haven't caught up isn't simply because we had a head start. The history of colonialism, as well as current fo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by benj_e (614605)

      First off, kerosene lamps don't have to be "foul-smelling". That usually means that a wick isn't adjusted right.

      And you can easily get plenty of light from the right lamp - check out the Aladdin lamps that are used in parts of the US (don't know where else might use them). Simple lamp, cheap fuel, equivalent to a 60w bulb.

      I like LEDs, most of my flashlights use them. But kerosene lamps have proven themselves over many, many years to be reliable and cheap. Introducing LED technology to countries without m

    • by jandrese (485)
      Of course back in those days house fires were a major concern too. These days it is downright rare for a house to burn down, mostly because we've moved away from hazards like kerosene lamps.
    • As a child I spent a lot of time in rural Africa using kerosene lamps etc. We just grew up knowing to be careful.

      They were plenty light to read by. So long as you are not trying to be wasteful (lighting your driveway or water features etc - which Africa tends to lack anyway) then low lighting is adequate.

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @08:17AM (#27062965)
    My Reading Light? I'm getting annoyed with people naming everything "My xxx". Was this started by Windows? Or was it "My Little Pony". My God. These people should hire some open source developers to name their products.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AlXtreme (223728)

      My God. These people should hire some open source developers to name their products.

      The Gimped Feisty gLight? No thanks.

    • Well, if it makes you feel any better, Microsoft's going to release theirs (at least the second version) as "Reading Light", without the "my".

      In other news, Open Source is communist because they're taking away the feeling of ownership...

  • While it would be nice to think everyone is going to just do everything they can to help developing countries, but the truth is cost has to come way down before a company will partner and do something like this. However, as it becomes better for the image of the country and create practical applications for a product, I'd like to think this will start getting much more popular in all fields of technology, to create cheaper more durable products at a faster rate.
  • 'If you could only see the joy these products bring the villagers. You look at their faces; you have to see it to believe it.'

    I bet their eyes light up!

    • by trb (8509)
      Yeah, if only we could see. Ummm, what would that take. Some kind of invention where you could record a moving image and make it available for playback on demand. Maybe someday.
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises Corp [bogolight.com] has been selling something like this for a few years. You can purchase a pair of rechargeable LED flashlights - one for you, one for charity - for between $50 to $60. You can choose where in the world you would like the donated flashlight to go.

    The two I have are best flashlights I've ever owned. They're solid, heavy duty plastic with a durable power switch. I've been using my first one for two years now. The original rechargeable batteries are still working, and the

    • My shake-to-charge LED flashlight cost US$5 at the shop down the street. It's lasted for about 2 years so far as well, and has the advantage of working even if I didn't remember to leave it somewhere sunny all day.

      I actually use it every day: As my conservation-geekiness has increased, I now use it whenever I have to go in another room at night to get something, pee, etc.

      Until my gf moved in, I had my total energy bill (power + gas) down to about $8/month. She can't sleep without A/C so it's shot up again

  • In my experience, inexpensive rechargeable batteries tend to last about a year. If they start dumping these lights on Africans, the only results I can see would be:

    One is that they will become addicted--"Getting" to work later means someone will find a way to exploit that work, and it will become a way of life.

    If they are cheap and in plentiful supply, they will end up in landfills of otherwise mostly organic material--something that certainly can't be good for the environment (We don't dump our batteries

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