Former Soda Bottles Become Low-Cost Solar Lights

Even as countries like India race to stretch the power grid to rural areas, well over a billion people around the world still don’t have access to electricity. If someone wants to have light at night to study or work, they tend to use kerosene lamps, even though they’re expensive, smoky, and a fire hazard. For several years, designers have worked on perfecting cheap solar lanterns as an alternative. One of the latest reuses plastic water bottles to help bring the cost down even more.

“With Infinite Light, we aimed to create a sustainable lamp with minimum cost,” say the designers at Designnobis, the Turkey-based firm that created the concept. “The lighting unit does not require any infrastructure, and it is a ready-to-use package that can be placed in a discarded plastic bottle.”

A flexible solar panel inside a water or soda bottle collects sunlight during the day, and small batteries store the power for use at night. A simple frame around the bottle holds everything together, and a handle at the top makes it easy to carry or hang from the ceiling.

Since plastic bottles are ubiquitous everywhere, the devices can easily be assembled locally, while only the small solar panels and other pieces of the kit have to be shipped. The designers claim that because they’re reusing the bottles for the main part of the lantern, it also has a smaller carbon footprint than similar solar lamps. “We wanted to emphasize the importance of waste materials as a growing resource,” say the designers.

The design, which won a 2013 Green Dot Award, is only a concept at the moment, but the firm is considering eventually launching a crowdfunding campaign to produce it.AP