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I Bless the Sun Down in Africa

The Sub-Saharan region in Africa is one of the world’s most sunshine-abundant places. Knowing this, it would be inefficient not to turn to solar power as an alternative energy especially since this region is also one of the most poorly lit areas in the world. That’s why two students at the Kansas State University are taking advantage of the sun in an attempt to ‘enlighten’ many villages.

Tai-Wen Ko and Justin Curry, electrical engineers at K-State, are designing a solar powered lamp that is efficient, eco-friendly, and cheap. Right now, most people in that region use kerosene lamps, which are the most affordable option, but not the most ‘green’ solution to their lighting needs because the lamps emit a hefty amount of carbon dioxide.

This is where Curry and Ko step in. Using their expertise in electrical engineering, the pair designed a lamp with three components: a solar panel, a battery, and a white light-emitting diode. They chose to use the diode instead of a fluorescent bulb because it’s cheaper, brighter, and lasts longer. The only ‘flaw’ of the design is the lead battery, which would have to be discarded after use, but the team is researching a recycling plan that can be implemented in the region.

Ko and Curry’s design and initiative shows how something so small, such as a solar powered lantern, could make such a great impact both on the environment and the people of an underdeveloped region. Not only will the cost of the lanterns enable more people to have light, the fact that the lanterns use such an abundant and renewable resource allows more lanterns to be distributed and produced. Using solar power in a region rich in sunshine sounds like a very ‘duh’ idea, but few people, if any, have actually attempted to provide light using the sun. It’s good to see such young individuals working to better the world using such a not tried (yet) but true method.


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