Saturday, November 21, 2009

Solar Nanotechnology Enables Fabric to Provide Reading Light

The Portable Light Project embeds flexible, solar nanotechnology into textiles that can harvest energy and generate light. More than 2 billion people live without electricity, most in extreme poverty. The Portable Light Project creates new ways to provide renewable power in solar textiles that can be adapted to meet the needs of people in different cultures and global regions. Portable Light textiles with flexible solar materials and solid state lighting enable the world’s poorest people to create and own energy harvesting bags, blankets, and clothing using local materials and traditional weaving and sewing techniques in an open source model.

A Portable Light Unit is hung on a branch outside the house to charge the solar panels. In the kitchen, a Huichol family gathers around the table with a Portable Light Unit hung from above.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, LTD.


In the kitchen, a Huichol family gathers around the table with a Portable Light Unit hung from above.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, LTD

The Portable Light Project is a non-profit research, design and engineering initiative established by KVA MATx that creates new ways to deliver de-centralized renewable power and light to the developing world. Each Portable Light unit is a simple, versatile textile with flexible photovoltaics and solid state lighting that can be adapted to local cultures and customized by people using traditional weaving and sewing technologies in an open source model. This creates the opportunity for greater levels of cultural acceptance and stewardship of this technology, particularly for women who are often among the most vulnerable in developing countries.

A Portable Light textile provides bright, white light to read, support cottage industries and facilitate community based education and health care. Each textile generates electrical power to charge cell phones and other small devices. Portable Light maximizes its efficiency through digital communication protocols between linked units. This distributed intelligence allows linked Portable Light units to charge in the sun and work together more efficiently as a group than they could as a collection of individual units. Families benefit from individual ownership of Portable Light and can join their units at times to create a co-operative and sustainable distributed network for community tasks.

Portable Light has been serving indigenous communities in the Mexican Sierra Madre since 2005. New Portable Light projects are underway for Nicaragua, through the Paso Pacifico program, for the Brazilian and Venezuelan Amazonias through Tele-Salud Medicos and for Zwa-Zulu Natal through the iTEACH program at the Edendale Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The Portable Light Team is working with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), to scale the project.

The three photos below are:
1. Estella Hernandez wears her Portable Light Unit integrated into a traditional
Huichol carry bag while another charges on the wall.
2. Huichol children gather around a Portable Light Unit integrated into a Traditional
Huichol carry bag.
3. A Huichol girl examines the light produced by the Portable Light Unit.
Photo Credits: Kennedy & Violich Architecture, LTD.

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