Making Light from Rocks

A few years ago we sponsored an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for something called GravityLight. It is a most amazing invention, which flies over the hurdles of other renewable light sources. Mainly, when you think of renewable or sustainable light, you’ll think of solar. Solar is great, and we love ideas like solar roadways and roof tiles. However, what GravityLight brings to the world is accessibility at a poverty-level. When the sun isn’t shining (i.e. when you need light), there’s no solar power, unless you have a battery to store what was collected in the daytime. Batteries and solar panels can be pricey though. So, GravityLight has pitched their market as those areas where kerosene lamps are posing financial burdens and fire and health threats to people.

As a perk for our contribution, they sent us a GravityLight. It took really long, because they were using the crowdfunds for setting up a factory. Nevertheless, it was so great to finally open the box when it arrived last Monday. The Kenyan factory is up and running, and their roadshow has kicked off the sales to people there.img_20161128_181156

How does it work?

GravityLight uses the power of gravity to turn cogs and gears and power a little motor. More technically, there are probably more accurate terms for the parts, but that’s the idea. It turns potential energy (remember that from school), into kinetic energy (thanks, Earth), and then into electrical energy. A tiny LED casts 15 lumens of light into your room.

It’s really amazing. The box contains the main light with all the beaded strings already installed (think of these like chains that drive the whole thing), a weight bag to be filled with sand or stones, and two SatLights – extensions that can be daisychained from the main light to provide focused light on a workspace.20161128_195929

With the help of my son, we filled some paper bags with gravel and filled the weight bag, and were filled with wonder when the LED lit up. In our suburban flat it easily provides enough light to avoid walking into things, and I was able to use the SatLight to study by. With a 20-minute lighting drop, it was also a pretty useful indicator for a brief study break, to stand up, stretch and pull the weight up again. It is really easy lifting, thanks to a clever application of ancient physics in the pulley effect.

I’m now starting intentional conversations to get others excited, and hopefully get this into people’s homes as either a primary source of light (conquering a dependence on kerosen/paraffin lamps) or as an emergency backup in case of loadshedding and power outages. If you can help me get this to where it needs to be, please get in touch.


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