09/12/2021 at 8:33 AM CEST
At a time when resources as basic as electricity and drinking water are seeing their prices rise exaggeratedly in many countries, initiatives are emerging to obtain these elements in a free, sustainable and simple way. They do not serve, at the moment, for large supplies, but there are already many families that have free electricity and water in Colombia and Chile. Two specific inventions have materialized what only seemed like a utopia: lamps that work with seawater.
Generate electricity only with salt water? That is what a Colombian renewable energy company, E-Dina, has achieved, which has developed a portable flashlight called Water Light, which is capable of produce electrical energy from seawater for 45 days and, in addition, it can recharge the battery of the mobile.
The lamp has been developed together with the Wunderman Thompson agency, also from Colombia, and constitutes a reliable alternative to have lighting in communities that lack electricity.
The device only needs to be filled with half a liter of seawater, although urine can also be used in an emergency, and with this it can operate for a month and a half.
This is possible thanks to the ionization of an electrolyte composed of salt water, which reacts with plates of magnesium and copper inside the lamp to produce electricity.
Wather Light acts as a mini power generator and can also be used to recharge mobile phones and other electronic devices through a USB port.
The lamp works throughout the day. It has been created with the idea that it is a 100% recyclable and durable product. In fact, the useful life of each device is about 5,600 hours, which is equivalent to about 230 days, which can be two or three years if not used as often.
The device consists of a cylindrical outer casing, made of wood, which at its base has an integrated circuit. At the top, there is a perforated cap that allows water to flow while the hydrogen created in the ionization process can escape through the hole.
When the salt particles in the water have evaporated, the lamp can be emptied and refilled. The water used can also be used for other purposes.
Wunderman Thompson says their goal is to now launch a smaller version of this lamp and mass-produce it for everyone.
Initially, the lamp was designed for the use of the Wayúu people, an indigenous community that lives between Colombia and Venezuela. It is an area with difficult access to electricity, but it is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, enough resource to obtain energy from now on.
This design has obtained three awards at the 2021 Cannes Lions French festival of creativity: one Silver Lion in the design category and two bronzes in the innovation and social responsibility categories.
Skylights that give free electricity and water in Chile
However, the Waterlight initiative is not the first to appear in the world to bring light, by sustainable means, to communities far from urban infrastructures. This same year, 2021, the architect Henry Glogau managed to be a finalist in the Lexus design award with his portable desalination skylight.
This other device, designed to be placed on the ceiling as a skylight or skylight, consists of a mechanism that, on the one hand, allows desalination of water and, at the same time, emits light and can be used as a lamp without the need for electrical power. All this, using only the sun.
The design uses sunlight and seawater to create soft lighting, as well as clean, potable fresh water.
The solar desalination skylight works by evaporating seawater using heat from the sun.
During the day, seawater is filtered through a pipe into the skylight, which is shaped like a bowl. Salt and contaminants are removed and clean drinking water can be drawn through a tap located at the base. Leftover brine creates ‘seawater batteries’ which then turn on the light at night, turning the desalination plant into a lamp.
The father of the initiative downplays his invention: “It was not about reinventing the wheel in any way. It was just trying to combine these simple ideas, which have been around for hundreds of years, and apply them in this other context, “he says.
Glogau’s design was inspired by a trip to Chilean slums. “The key to my design was to establish a relationship with the local NGO,” he says. “They provided a lot of research, but also insight into life within these informal settlements.”
Henry Glogau learned from the local NGO ‘Techo’ that every day in Chile 10 families move to marginal neighborhoods because they cannot afford conventional housing. At the same time, all public service companies are privatized in the country, so water prices are the highest in Latin America.
To help low-income people have access to safe drinking water, Henry taught them how to make their own makeshift skylights.
Water Light website: https://www.waterlight.com.co/
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