I’ve spent the better part of this week researching products which could make your life better if you lived in an Indian slum. In the past, I’ve checked out different technological advances which are revolutionizing life in the developing world, like the cardboard bike and the machine which generates energy from human waste. The human mind is amazing. Maybe there are MORE inventions are coming out or I am just digging deeper; I’m not sure – but I was pretty impressed this week at the volume and variety of gadgets there are. Some are plain and practical, some are flashy, but all are amazing. Here are my favorites which I’d never heard of before, in no particular order.
- Artificial Leaf – No particular order except for this one. This blew me away. It’s a small, silicon strip about the size of your thumb, dubbed the “artificial leaf,” and when you place this in water it generates electricity. In a few years, two bottles of water will be able to provide a home with 100W of electricity, 24 hours a day. Sound crazy? It kind of is. The silicon is coated in specific metals that when placed in a glass of water in sunlight, the artificial leaf separates the hydrogen
and oxygen molecules within the water. Professor Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard University has been working on the artificial leaf for years. The most recent version is able to be used with dirty water – the artificial leaf prevents bacteria from sticking to the surface. You could literally stick it in a puddle and generate fuel. Hydrogen is a very powerful fuel, but unfortunately his invention has outpaced the rest of the products in the world – everyday products are not set up to run on hydrogen gas. Nocera is advocating for technology which uses hydrogen instead of other fuels. I’m sure this is not the last time you will be hearing about this.
- Soccket – I know I mentioned this briefly in my last post…but it is too good not to put in the list. Kick this soccer ball (dubbed “Soccket Ball”) around for 30 minutes and generate 3 hours of power. They also make a jump rope. I love that this combines renewable energy with exercise. Each one costs $99 – so not too applicable if you are living in poverty but it’s pretty cool all the same.
- Eliodomestico – Not only does this purify water but it converts salt
water into freshwater as well – and it is not much more than a clay pot and plastic tank. It works by using the sunlight to heat the dirty water, creating condensation which is collected in a bowl at the bottom. The bowl is even fashioned to be easily carried on your head, which is how most women living in villages carry heavy items.
- Power Felt – This “fabric” collects body heat, or the heat emitted from any object and turns it into energy. In other words, add a little
of this onto your iPhone case and charge your phone by sitting next to it. Mind blown.
- Chulha Stove – This one isn’t too flashy, but it is exactly what I was looking for. People living in slums typically cook over open fires that they light with kerosene and burn inside their hut (called chulhas). Kerosene is terrible for the environment, but even worse for the lungs. There are several stoves that run on cleaner energy, but they’re all single-burner or quite pricey. When we tried these out in communities a few months back, no one wanted to invest so much money for a single-burner stove. Enter: the Chulha Stove! It uses wood, has two burners and has a little chimney to remove any smoke which is created. What’s even cooler? This product was designed by the international company Philips. They don’t sell them, but they put all of the specs online with step-by-step directions on how to build them. There are several retailers throughout India which sell the molds, or you can make your own. I love that they’re sharing ideas. I will likely be rolling up my sleeves, pouring some concrete and making one of my own to try out in the near future.
I hope you were as blown away by some of these as I was. Know of a cool inventions making the world a little better? Let me know!