Here’s an example of solving an impossible problem using clever design.
First off, the arena in which the problem exists: Roughly 25% of the world’s population have no access to electricity. In these areas using kerosene lamps for lighting is common. The potential for fires and burns from these lamps are bad, but the persistent fumes are worse. One study has it that the women tending these lamps sustain lung damage equal to smoking two packs a day, saddling many of these women with lung cancer. And of course, there are children around these things too.
A nonprofit called SolarAid approached London-based product designers Jim Reeves and Martin Riddiford, asking them to design a solar-powered light source to alleviate the problem. In order to be cost-effective for developing nations, the lamp would have to cost just six dollars.
Reeves and Riddiford concluded that it was impossible. Here’s what they came up with instead:
And here’s a great explanation of the design thinking, and design challenges, that went into the GravityLight:
The design has been upgraded since that TEDx Talk. Here’s what the current design, which began shipping last December, looks like:
You can learn more about GravityLight, and/or get involved, here.
Jim Reeves: “I used to have a job. Now I have a mission.”