Scientists created a solar-powered light that is both sustainable and responsible

We take a lot of things for granted. Have you ever thought what life would be like if your house did not have electricity? It wouldn’t be as comfortable as it is now and partly because of how dependent you would be on day/night cycles. However, while for you it is just a hypothetical question, for many families in low-income countries it is a reality. Now scientists from the University of Edinburgh have created a portable solar-powered light to improve their living conditions.

Solar power is a great source of energy, but solar industry is creating too much waste and irreparable products. Image credit: Rijab via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Without light you only have so much time to read or work. Once a night comes, you are pretty much forced to go to sleep or use candles and other potentially non-safe light sources. Scientists created this light, called Solar What?!, from recycled plastics and ethically-sourced electronic components. It also incorporates mobile phone batteries, which can be charged from a range of second-hand solar modules. However, the main goal of this device was not to provide light to these families – it was meant to raise awareness.

Solar power is a renewable energy source, which has a lot of potential. However, solar industry is not particularly clean – scientists say that they can see a low of irresponsible production practices and lack of resourcefulness in this sector. That is what the Solar What?! is all about. It is meant to show that creating environmentally-friendly and responsibly manufactured solar devices is possible. It is estimated that more than 25 million off-grid solar devices were thrown away in 2017. It creates a lot of waste, particularly in regions in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asian countries where electronic and plastic waste is a huge problem.

Bu, of course, a good invention cannot go to waste. Solar What?! is going to reach families in Africa – the first batch will reach schoolchildren and their families in Zambia in early 2019. Dr Jamie Cross, project leader, said: “When solar things break down in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia, people try to fix them. Solar-powered lighting devices that cannot be fixed are effectively disposable technologies. The solution to electronic solar waste lies in designing products that can be easily repaired. When solar powered devices can be taken apart and repaired locally, they reduce electronic waste and provide clean energy for longer”.

That is one of the main advantages of the Solar What?! This device can be repaired with non-specialist tools with very little skill or knowledge. Its lifecycle should be quite long, it is future-proof in a way. And that is what scientists want more solar energy devices to be like – responsible, efficient and easy to live with.


Source: University of Edinburgh


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