Solar power seems to be a simple and brilliant solution for the power needs of those in developing nations–it doesn’t eat fuel, avoids the problems of janky power grids, and it’s convenient. Hence the invention of the Studylite solar lamp, aimed at helping students, and others, in India.
It’s carefully thought-out, with a pretty elegant bendable neck and open-loop design that maximizes bulb-distribution and minimizes construction material use. The 24 LEDs were even chosen with the aid of the eye-science hospital at Sankara Nethralaya University, so they could be optimized for the right level of brightness.
It comes with an attached solar panel that pushes juice into its NiMH battery during daylight hours, giving it a maximum charge good enough for six hours of lighting. And that’s enough extra study-time for any student–the main target audience for the lamp, since study time has apparently been suffering due to power outs and limited lighting options in India.
All in all it’s laudable…with one major flaw: It costs $33, and that’s likely to be way beyond the economic range of many of its target consumers.
So I have a solution. Get hold of one of those bendy-neck shaving mirrors–you know, the ones with a magnifying face on one side–and four or five of those super-cheapo solar-powered garden lights. Hack the electronics and LEDs out of the lights, mount the solar panels on the back and tape the LEDs in front of the mirror, and bingo! One cheap Studylite clone. It probably won’t be as bright, but it’ll certainly be serviceable…and the components have got to be reasonably priced. Silly? Yes–but it illustrates how the Studylite could be dramatically reduced in price, to a point where it would start making a serious impact for the world’s poor.