An inflatable solar light for disaster relief (or camping)

Columbia University graduate students Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta want light added to the list of traditional disaster relief supplies. And they've found a way to do it.

Disaster relief efforts traditionally focus on supplying the basics -- food, water and shelter -- to victims. Columbia University graduate students Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta want light added to the list. And they've found a way to do it.

The architecture graduate students have created an innovative solution to bring a safe, clean and renewable source of light to the estimated 1.6 billion people who lack access to electricity. It's called LuminAID -- known as solar light pillow in its infancy -- and it's designed to be lightweight and portable to reduce shipping costs, yet sturdy enough to stand up to the rigors of everyday use.

Simple, innovative design

The LuminAID solar light is a rechargeable device that inflates (sort of like a pillow) and is printed with white dot-pattern that diffuses the LED light and produce a quality similar to a lantern. A flexible, photovoltaic film is laminated to a polyethylene vinyl plastic. The circuit and thin-film solar panel -- along with two coin cell rechargeable batteries --are sandwiched between two layers of plastic to protect it from damage and make it waterproof. A PVC inflatable valve -- just like the ones used to blow up pool toys and floaties -- is used to inflate the solar light.

The creators have already made design improvements and now the LEDs in the solar light last longer (up to six hours) and has two light settings. Plus, it's packable, making it easier to ship more solar lights than other alternatives. According to its creators, about 50 LuminAID solar lights can be packed and shipped for every eight mini-solar flashlights.

Storke and Sreshta have received kudos for their design, but they aren't too shabby in the marketing department either. The design duo has smartly launched a "Give a Light, Get a Light" campaign and has marketed the LuminAID as a cool camping lantern.

Photo: LuminAID

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