Two New York City university students have developed a solar lantern design that could see use in undeveloped nations, in locations where access to electrical light sources just doesn’t exist or camping. It’s a situation common to no less than 1.6bn global residents but it could be countered by the innovative solar-powered LuminAID – the brainchild of Columbia University’s Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork. The LuminAID boasts a photovoltaic cell and battery combination that allows it to capture sunlight during the day and beam out this stored energy at night.

The solar-powered lantern design process began as a result of the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, filling a requirement that other parties – focusing, instead on other essential such as shelter and food – hadn’t yet met. Specifically, according to its developers, the technology emerged to deal with an inherent lighting requirement that follows natural disasters, like Haiti, and a linked danger associated with operating older, non-renewable light sources, like candles, inside tents. On the structural side, the LuminAID is a nine-inch square and folds flat when not in use. It’s highly portable and small enough to fit into a pocket but it can supply four hours night-time illumination at its brightest, 35 lumen setting or a maximum of six at a lower lighting configuration. The battery allows for up to 800 recharges and the recharging process itself takes between four and six hours.

LuminAID light trials are presently taking place in Rajasthan in North West India. Here, only 50 per cent of the population have readily-available electricity and schools, businesses and domestic residences alike are all getting examples of this technology to try for themselves.
A LuminAID purchase scheme is currently underway via website IndieGoGo, through which consumers can obtain two of the lanterns – one for them and one for a person in need – for the price of $25. Further information on the solar lantern design is available at the LuminAID website.