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Hong Kong Company Develops Solar-Powered Lightbulb 222

Posted by timothy
from the works-best-at-night dept.
hussain_mkj writes "A Hong Kong-based company, Nokero, has introduced what it claims is the world's first solar powered lightbulb. Nokero is trying to replace traditional kerosene lamps in developing countries with its solar-powered N100 LED lightbulbs. The bulb is about the same size as normal incandescent bulbs, and will shine for two hours when charged for a day. The company claims that the new bulb is five times as bright as a kerosene lamp and uses 1/200th the energy. It will cost $15 for one and $480 for 48."
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Hong Kong Company Develops Solar-Powered Lightbulb

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  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:03PM (#32560826) Homepage

    Seriously how many light bulbs to you have where there is sunlight hittinng the top of the bulb regularly?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Per the tfa their thinking was that you would hang it outside during the day.

      • Yeah, hang it under something. This is really, really dumb.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by iamhassi (659463)
          if you bothered to RTFA you'd see that it has a hook to hang like a lantern. Thinking is to hang it from a branch or something.

          Obviously if you're in a house you probably already have electric power or some other more reliable source of lighting
          • In a third world country? A house does not imply running water, sewage, or any kind of power generation infrastructure. There are many countries where the power is of poor quality (very spiky, random surges, brownouts, etc), intermittent, or only available between certain hours.

            That said, this bulb will run for two hours? I don't care how long it takes to charge, if it can't run for more than two hours then what's the point? A lightbulb that only functions a little bit after dark isn't going to help any
            • by xaxa (988988)

              That said, this bulb will run for two hours? I don't care how long it takes to charge, if it can't run for more than two hours then what's the point? A lightbulb that only functions a little bit after dark isn't going to help anyone do anything in the dark.

              No, a light bulb that functions for two hours after dark will help someone do something for two hours after dark.

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:59PM (#32561070)

      Seriously how many light bulbs to you have where there is sunlight hittinng the top of the bulb regularly?

      I found some information on a phenomenon [wikipedia.org] that will ... illuminate you.

      • Seriously how many light bulbs to you have where there is sunlight hittinng the top of the bulb regularly?

        I found some information on a phenomenon [wikipedia.org] that will ... illuminate you.

        I found some information on a structure [wikipedia.org] that will ... shade you.

    • Portable lamp (Score:2, Informative)

      by LongearedBat (1665481)
      During the day you hang it from the metal clip on a branch (with no foliage) or a string (like a washing line). Or, simply place it on a safe surface somewhere that catches the sun.

      At night you either hang it from the metal clip or screw it in. By the picture, it looks like there is a black "on" button at the top that may work such that screwing it in further switches it on (would have to remove the clip though).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SudoGhost (1779150)
      "Solar powered lightbulbs" Shit, growing up we just called those mirrors.
  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pieisgood (841871) on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:05PM (#32560836) Journal

    You can get the 48 light deal and setup a grid of lights to provide night time lighting for six hours and you won't have to pay the electricity bill.

    But will anyone in the developing countries know or care about this?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by keeboo (724305)

      But will anyone in the developing countries know or care about this?

      The problem is what does mean a "developing country"?
      Really, people apply that term from places with reasonable life quality (but considered "developing" for some reason) to places lacking a funcional government and where famine is widespread.

      In the not-so "developing countries" people won't care since - unless it's a desolate area - even the poorest houses are connected to the power grid.

      • by xzvf (924443) on Monday June 14, 2010 @12:23AM (#32561162)
        Diplomats adjust terms to keep from offending nations where people have little income and limited freedom. During the cold war there was the 1st world (NATO, neutral western Europe, Japan), 2nd world (Warsaw Pact), and 3rd world (everyone else). Late in the cold war, 3rd world was replaced by developing nations to counter the Soviet goal of creating Communist revolutions, and indicate the new US policy economic development (replacing the anti-Communist strongman policy). After the cold war saw the creating of the emerging economies (BRIC {Brazil, Russia [after deflating the CIA myth of a Soviet economy as large as the US], India, and China}, Asian tigers {primarily South Korea and Singapore} and former purgatory countries {South Africa [Aparthid] and Israel [peace treaty with Egypt]. The former 1st world is now called developed. So now we have Developed, Emerging and Developing. Of course people closer to the academic world will know the newest buzzwords.
        • By you logic, Australia would be part of the 3rd world.

          What has the 3rd world ever done to you to deserve that?

          The term is indeed pretty flexible and highly political. Animal Planet has all these "animal cop" shows. Sometimes very hard to see the difference between a show in South Africa/England and the US of A.

    • by xzvf (924443)
      Ikea was selling a $19.99 solar reading lamp that if you bought one, one was sent to Africa. Even if they didn't make a profit, that means the light cost significantly less than $15 dollars individually. Plus the LED is bright and lasts six hours easily.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday June 14, 2010 @12:51AM (#32561274)

      Developing countries are way ahead of the "green" curve because:
      1) Electricity is expensive
      2) Electricity isn't that reliable.

      On my recent trip to India I was quite surprised, especially out in Sikkim. Even though the area is very 'poor' (by American standards) almost everyone had florescent lights. We stayed on Yangsum Farm [yangsumfarm.com]. The guy had a solar array. WWII sub batteries for backup. He was in process of building an entire passive 'off the grid' building.

      Every single hotel room I stayed in had a slot for the key. You walked in, put the key in the slot and the power came on to the room. If you took the key, you lost power. It was annoying trying to charge stuff, but how many times to people leave their rooms in the USA and leave a TV on, some lights, etc?

      So yes, developing countries know about this and they'll most likely make use of it long before anyone in the USA even cares.

      • Every single hotel room I stayed in had a slot for the key. You walked in, put the key in the slot and the power came on to the room. If you took the key, you lost power.

        Don't have to go clear to India...that is popular in island nations, too, where the cost of shipping fuel to power plants is expensive. Like down in the Dominican Republic.

        (Although it is my thought that they could have just capitalized on the "Drinks Included!" feature of their resorts and routed the urinal flow through generators.)

        • They have those in Shanghai too and perhaps all of China. Electricity is expensive, especially when you're not paying a separate electric bill for a hotel. They earn a profit by saving money.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Asic Eng (193332)
          Seems pretty common in hotels all over the world actually. Stayed in the Shangri-La in Hong Kong a few weeks back and they had the same setup.
          • The only time I don't like it is when the ambient is 30 Celsius or better out and taking your key out shuts down all electric power - to include the power to the air conditioner...so you come back to a miserable, sweltering room.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nosferatu1001 (264446)

            Same here - I think hotels in the UK are now required to put these systems in when refitting / building, as they seem to be in >75% of hotels i stay in nowadays.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Every single hotel room I stayed in had a slot for the key. You walked in, put the key in the slot and the power came on to the room. If you took the key, you lost power. It was annoying trying to charge stuff, but how many times to people leave their rooms in the USA and leave a TV on, some lights, etc?

        You know you can put a business card/membership card/whatever in there and it works?

        Most hotels in the UK have this as well now, even those costing USD 500 a night for the cheapest room...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by smart_ass (322852)

        With regards to the key slot for power ... fairly true of Europe as well.
        It is (sadly) us North Americans who are free and loose with power because it is still relatively cheap here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rockNme2349 (1414329)

      Maybe something like this [newegg.com] would be cheaper?

      I would hardly say this is the world's first.

      • by Asic Eng (193332)
        Well the product on the website you linked costs $39.99 - the product from TFA is $10 - $15, so I'd say no it wouldn't be cheaper. Also the Nokero lamp is really a more suitable design for indoor use. I don't think it's a technological breakthrough, but it seems like a design which is well-suited for the application.
    • by grcumb (781340)

      You can get the 48 light deal and setup a grid of lights to provide night time lighting for six hours and you won't have to pay the electricity bill.

      But will anyone in the developing countries know or care about this?

      Er, yes and yes.

      I live in the developing world and a family to whom I'm quite close have two solar-powered lanterns already. They use them for illumination as well as to light their roadside shop in the evenings. The lamp also has a plug for mobile phones and a mini-USB connector. Its solar panels are significantly larger than this light bulb's and they're all on one side, so you can use them all at once.

      The lanterns are pretty expensive by local standards - almost a week's pay. But they're much cheaper to

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      http://solar-aid.org/ [solar-aid.org]

      Solar Aid has several solutions that are better. They promote locally manufactured or at least assembled devices. They help with PV systems. They have an interesting light that provides more light for a longer time, it's far cheaper, it charges phones and other small gadgets and was designed by students at Leeds. Plus Minus Design was also able to address the need for local maintenance with a simply designed product assembled through snap-in parts and repairable with basic tools. http: [cnet.com]

  • by blankinthefill (665181) <blachanc&gmail,com> on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:08PM (#32560852) Journal
    Well, considering that these: http://www.siliconsolar.com/solar-garden-lights.html [siliconsolar.com], have been around for many years, I think 'first' is a bit of a stretch. They may have made them CHEAPER, and longer lasting, or more useful, but certainly not FIRST.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      Also I did hear about solar powered kerosene lamp replacements being deployed in West Africa about three years or more ago. I thought they were actually cheaper than this although some assembly is required.
      • by besalope (1186101) on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:42PM (#32561012)

        In my International Management course we learned about an initiative to work with 3rd world countries to help provide 1 Watt Solar Panels, rechargeable batteries, and LED arrays as kerosene replacements. The systems only cost about $100 at the time (2 years or so ago) and it paid itself off in about 5 months due to the price of kerosene.

    • In fact I am pretty sure I have seen lanterns exactly like this in the shops. Solar panel on top. Batteries and LED lights. You hang it in the sun during the day.

    • by Firehed (942385)

      Ever used those things? They suck. It's basically a single, low-power LED rigged up to a rechargeable battery. They're generally designed to illuminate a walkway at night (VERY little light output - just enough to see by), and all the ones I've used are barely able to do that.

      A light bulb suggests that there's actually a meaningful amount of light. The little garden lights don't compare, even if the concept is similar.

      As an aside, the garden lights can be had for about five bucks each (in a pack of six or e

      • Ever used those things? They suck. It's basically a single, low-power LED rigged up to a rechargeable battery. They're generally designed to illuminate a walkway at night (VERY little light output - just enough to see by), and all the ones I've used are barely able to do that.

        They do what they are intended for. Double the solar panel area, increase the light output, switch the lights so you can use them for a couple of hours at a time. Now you have a product which may be the difference between an African kid being able to study at night, or not. More light would be good but some is better than nothing at all.

        • Actually if we're talking solar path lights some of them are actually fairly bright and last the entire evening using two LEDs and two batteries.

          In theory you could take a bunch of them without the ground spikes, punch holes in a tin roof, and install them so the solar panel is on the outside while the light is on the inside. (Sealing the roof for leaks obviously)

          Do that with enough of them and you have bright enough light to read at night.

          And since you can buy a brace of them cheap at local big-box stor
          • Yeah reading this article I am plotting a project for next weekend. I have an old solar panel intended to boost a car battery when the car is not in use. I have an old six volt gel cell battery okay for float charging. I can buy a single white high intensity LED.

            The problem is that when I go into the garage at night it is too dark to see where I am going. The florescent light takes too long to start but a little light which is always on will make all the difference. The idea would be to mount the solar cell

        • by Khyber (864651)

          We've got ultra-bright 1W diodes, now. Two companies I know of have smashed 150 lux/w and thus are surpassing HIDs in visual efficiency. I think Cree smashed the 200 lux/w, which just blows away any HID out there. Get two High-capacity NiMH batteries (each holding about 4w of power) and a joule thief hooked to a micro-amplifier and solar panel, and you could light a desk for a night, at about the same cost as this solution in TFA, and at very likely near the same price line.

  • New? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Dan East (318230)

    Isn't this the exact same thing as the exterior lights people stick in the ground along their steps and walkways around their homes? They charge in the daytime and come on at night for a couple hours. This is just a slightly different form factor is all.

    And I don't think it is accurate calling it a "lightbulb". It is a "bulb-shaped" electronic device, but it is not a bulb.

  • $15 is likely a month or more salary in most undeveloped countries.
    • True. Here's hoping the economies of scale can get prices lower over time.
    • I was thinking the same thing. But I suppose if you are one of the wealthier people where $15 is only a weeks salary, you might consider this. Afterall, you won't get electrical lighting any other way. But then again, it's probably still much more affordable to go with kerosene.
    • by camperdave (969942) on Monday June 14, 2010 @12:22AM (#32561158) Journal
      This isn't meant for third world applications, despite the company propaganda. It is meant for North Americans, for patio lanterns and camping and such. There's no reason that a third world solar powered bulb would be shaped like [com.com] a North American bulb [bulbhalogen.com], complete with screw threads moulded into the plastic on the top. It's meant to be cute. Third world doesn't buy cute, they buy functional. North America buys cute.

      From Nokero's website:

      Coleman lanterns are popular, but the Nokero is like a solar Coleman lantern powered by sunlight rather than gas lantern technology, so it can also be used for recreational purposes. It can provide emergency light during or after natural disasters, it can be an outdoor recreation and camping lantern, or it can be used in and around outdoor patios.

      • Apparently the original poster got it wrong.. "Nokero is trying to replace traditional kerosene lamps in developing countries with its solar-powered N100 LED lightbulbs."
    • by kcelery (410487)

      a $15 light bulb is something you have to hire a body guard to secure if you hang it in the open.

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday June 13, 2010 @11:40PM (#32560988)
    I have had some experience with kerosene.

    But this lamp seems least useful where it would be most needed - where days are short, nights are long, and the weather uncooperative.

    • Agreed.. my first thought was instead of this.. why not those windup LED jobs.. I bet theyre about the same price and as long as you can wind, you can have light...
    • by Cylix (55374) *

      My first thought was the kerosene lamp is also a bit more rugged. They can generally take a few hits, dirt and even a good bit of rust. Conversely, I get a sense the solar powered replacement may break with a few days of usage.

  • by jrifkin (100192) on Monday June 14, 2010 @12:00AM (#32561074)
    I have owned a couple of Boglights for a few years now and they've been solidly reliable. They can last up to 6 hours on a days charge, they work as both a flashlight and an area light, they give 6 levels of light, and are designed for developing countries. However, they cost twice as much, $30 a light. This page has a lot of technical information about them, http://www.bogolight.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=BOGO-BUYONESN2&Show=TechSpecs [bogolight.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gninnor (792931)

      They look better thought out than the light bulb shaped N100 LED bulbs. The solar panels on the N100 are pointed in such a way that only half of them could be put even approximately facing the sun and are pointed down at a steep angle if hung up to charge. I would rather be able to aim the solar panel. Over all it looks like the N100 looks like it was designed by marketing, those Boglights seem a bit better thought out.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "The solar panels on the N100 are pointed in such a way that only half of them could be put even approximately facing the sun"

        Incorrect. If you point the top of this bulb directly towards the sun, every panel is well-illuminated.

        Now keeping it pointed at the sun is a different story.

        • the angle at which they are placed would probably mean that pointing the screw end directly to the sun, will ensure each panel catches only a fraction of the light compared to one panel placed at a 90 degree angle to the sun

          i'm pretty sure the geometry of the panels on this thing could be optimised to give two-three times better performance, but that would mean sacrifing the cute 'lightbulb' shape.

  • Wait, since these bulbs also give off light, if you use the light from the solar-charged bulb to charge more bulbs, you can then use those bulbs when the first one goes out, and use the second round of bulbs to re-charge the first round, ad infinitum! Suck on that von Mayer [wikipedia.org]!
  • Gotta love slashdot. Light bulbs running on sunlight! Transistors working when they're off! Lying about the lie detector!

    What next? Honest politicians? Transparent intelligence organisations? Intelligent news consumers?

  • Tim Hornyak got paid (Score:4, Informative)

    by juventasone (517959) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:30AM (#32562022)
    As someone posted in the article's comments, there is already a cheaper, better-designed, and longer-lasting product [dlightdesign.com] already in-use in the developing world.
  • Ok, first of all, it's not a light bulb, it's LEDs. Secondly, it's not the first, solar powered light has existed for decades! Third, I hope they didn't get a patent for the idea of combining solar cells with LEDs.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:40AM (#32562866)

    Just look at it. The design has abysmal panel coverage. Do note that there seems to be a couple mm of margin around the solar panel within the area covered by the clear plastic meniscus. They could have rather trivially increased the panel coverage by a factor of two, and with a bit more sweat it could have been 3x larger. I'd also like to see how they waterproofed the switch's operator (the black button protruding on top). It's not a trivial task, as not only you get water going straight down onto the switch, but also you get dirt from your fingers that will act to eat away any O-ring-like seal arrangements.

    I'd also like to know what sort of power conditioning electronics do they use to charge the rechargeable cells, and to extract power from them. Designing efficient micropower power converters is quite an undertaking if you don't have an engineer who has done that once or twice (and done it well).

    Having seen the abysmal design of common solar-powered garden lights, I don't really have high hopes. Now if anyone wonders: your typical $3.99 garden light sucks at power conversion efficiency. And by sucks I mean it's underperforming by 60%+. And the cell life is shortened as well: it's hard to maintain cell life without a power converter when all you have for energy source is PV cells.

    Jim Williams should tackle that one and write it up in an app note ;)

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