Good Thinking

The Lightie: A small light with big ambitions

The Lightie: A small light wit...
The Lightie is a solar-powered light designed shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Photo: The Lightie)
The Lightie is a solar-powered light designed shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Photo: The Lightie)
View 19 Images
The lack of safe lighting is a serious issue in developing nations (Image: The Lightie)
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The lack of safe lighting is a serious issue in developing nations (Image: The Lightie)
Kerosene lamps can lead to fires which can be especially devastating in the temporary buildings of shanty towns and slums (Image: The Lightie)
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Kerosene lamps can lead to fires which can be especially devastating in the temporary buildings of shanty towns and slums (Image: The Lightie)
The Lightie was developed by South African designer and social entrepreneur Michael Suttner (Photo: The Lightie)
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The Lightie was developed by South African designer and social entrepreneur Michael Suttner (Photo: The Lightie)
The Lightie is a solar-powered light designed shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Photo: The Lightie)
4/19
The Lightie is a solar-powered light designed shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Photo: The Lightie)
The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Photo: The Lightie)
5/19
The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Photo: The Lightie)
Though a solar powered lamp is nothing new in itself, The Lightie's designer hopes to position his creation as the iPod of sustainable lighting (Photo: The Lightie)
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Though a solar powered lamp is nothing new in itself, The Lightie's designer hopes to position his creation as the iPod of sustainable lighting (Photo: The Lightie)
The main components of The Lightie include an efficient CIGS photovoltaic panel, an LED light, and integrated rechargeable batteries (Photo: The Lightie)
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The main components of The Lightie include an efficient CIGS photovoltaic panel, an LED light, and integrated rechargeable batteries (Photo: The Lightie)
Following around five to eight hours of exposure to sunlight, the 120-lumen device produces illumination for up to eight hours on its brightest setting, or up to 40 hours on the lower setting (Photo: The Lightie)
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Following around five to eight hours of exposure to sunlight, the 120-lumen device produces illumination for up to eight hours on its brightest setting, or up to 40 hours on the lower setting (Photo: The Lightie)
The current expected cost per device is around US$13 (Image: The Lightie)
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The current expected cost per device is around US$13 (Image: The Lightie)
The Lightie derives its name from a South African slang word that roughly translates as "youngster," (Image: The Lightie)
10/19
The Lightie derives its name from a South African slang word that roughly translates as "youngster," (Image: The Lightie)
The Lightie is shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Image: The Lightie)
11/19
The Lightie is shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Image: The Lightie)
The Lightie was developed by South African designer and social entrepreneur Michael Suttner (Image: The Lightie)
12/19
The Lightie was developed by South African designer and social entrepreneur Michael Suttner (Image: The Lightie)
The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Image: The Lightie)
13/19
The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Image: The Lightie)
The small test tube-shaped unit contains an integrated photovoltaic panel and rechargeable batteries (Image: The Lightie)
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The small test tube-shaped unit contains an integrated photovoltaic panel and rechargeable batteries (Image: The Lightie)
Paraffin lamps can lead to fires which can be especially devastating in the temporary buildings of shanty towns and slums (Image: The Lightie)
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Paraffin lamps can lead to fires which can be especially devastating in the temporary buildings of shanty towns and slums (Image: The Lightie)
The lack of safe lighting is a serious issue in developing nations (Image: The Lightie)
16/19
The lack of safe lighting is a serious issue in developing nations (Image: The Lightie)
The Lightie is shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Image: The Lightie)
17/19
The Lightie is shaped to fit right into the neck of a standard soda bottle (Image: The Lightie)
The current expected cost per device is around US$13 (Image: The Lightie)
18/19
The current expected cost per device is around US$13 (Image: The Lightie)
The main components of the Lightie include a CIGS photovoltaic panel, an LED light, and integrated rechargeable batteries (Photo: The Lightie)
19/19
The main components of the Lightie include a CIGS photovoltaic panel, an LED light, and integrated rechargeable batteries (Photo: The Lightie)
View gallery - 19 images

South African designer and social entrepreneur Michael Suttner recently unveiled the Lightie: a portable solar-powered light that fits into a standard soda bottle. The low cost and durable device is designed to provide sustainable, safe, and affordable lighting to people in developing nations – and anyone else with a low income.

As highlighted by the pop bottle lighting project, a lack of suitable lighting can be a serious issue where there's no grid-based electricity. In areas of Africa, for example, people often use kerosene lamps, which are expensive to run, produce harmful fumes, and can lead to accidental fires.

Deriving its name from a South African slang word that roughly translates as "youngster," the Lightie is shaped so as to fit snugly into the neck of a standard soda bottle, screwing securely onto the top like a lid. It can also be used without a bottle, and clipped to a belt, worn around the neck, or hung up as a lantern.

The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Photo: The Lightie)
The device screws onto a bottle like a lid in order to make a sustainable and tough lantern (Photo: The Lightie)

The main components of the Lightie include an efficient CIGS photovoltaic panel, an LED light, and integrated rechargeable batteries. Following around five to eight hours of exposure to sunlight, the 120-lumen device produces illumination for up to eight hours on its brightest setting, or up to 40 hours on the lower setting. It is very easy to use, and activates automatically when it detects that the sun has set.

Though a solar powered lamp is nothing new in itself, the Lightie's designer hopes to position his creation as the iPod of sustainable lighting. In order to bring this about, Suttner is in preliminary talks with Coca Cola, a company certainly well positioned to run the kind of high-level campaign necessary to put the Lightie into the hands of those who need it most.

The current expected cost per device is around US$13, which Suttner told Gizmag is roughly the amount an African family can spend on a month and a half's supply of kerosene for lighting purposes.

Source: The Lightie

View gallery - 19 images
10 comments
moreover
Keying this in with a multinational corporation producing billions of bottles might just work as it's implementation, not technical ingenuity that counts the most.
Kerosine for cooking and lamp fuels kills large numbers of people throughout the world. Fumes and spilled liquid are toxic, accidental fires are frequent, price is substantial. It's long been a goal to get rid of kerosine as much as possible.
That said, there are many companies pursuing solar lighting, including Nokero. Field research increasingly shows that tech giveaways don't work well because end user's needs are not met.
TGinNC
At $13, the Lightie produces about 900 ~ 960 lumen-hours per day. In a 30-day month, that would be about 27000 ~ 28800 lumen-hours per month. In a month and a half, about 40500 ~ 43200 lumen-hours. Can you tell us how many lumen-hours are produced by burning $13 worth of kerosene for lighting purposes? We need that number to calculate the payback time from fuel savings alone. Also, the lumen output of the kerosene lamp, as they may need to buy more than one Lightie to replace it. While we are looking at total lifetime-cost-of-light, we would also need the expected wear-out times for Lighties and kerosene lamps, to do a really good comparison. It would be great if we could show people the money saved from buying Lighties instead of kerosene lamps and kerosene.
Michael Crumpton
The solar panel configuration seems less than optimal, as less than half of it receives sun, no matter what direction it comes from. Better to unfold the solar panel inside the bottle and put the LEDs below it.
gafisher
Does the soda bottle fulfill any technical function, or is it part of the design simply to hold the Lightie vertical (and attract the interest of soda companies)?
Buzz Allnight
Just an educated guess...
The photo cell array is designed to work no matter which direction it is pointed as long as the red top is up trading efficiency for fool proof operation.
The LED appears to be yellow green instead of white possibly for less current draw and longer light time.
The Skud
As a lot of these villagers will share a common cooking area, incidentally increasing the risk of spills and injury, families could club together to share the costs of multiple lights, giving better or at least safer lighting and hopefully reducing the use of kerosene lamps. People will, however, probably keep using 'kero' in stoves and for fire-lighting, so it will be hard to stop the use entirely.
christopher
The ones I've got decorating my garden stay on almost all night, and cost me 80 US cents ($1AUD) from my local dollar-shop...
Martin Hone
I'm with Christopher. Just get a bunch of those el cheapo solar garden lights !
windykites
I have seen a better idea than solar electric generation for lighting. It involves a raised weight, which when it lowers down, turns gear wheels on a small generator, which lights the LED. The weight can either be a large stone or a bottle of water, either of which cost practically nothing.
As far as using kerosene for cooking, a better idea would be to cook during the day, using a solar oven, which gives free heating. The food could then be put into insulated boxes, and kept hot for a considerable amount of time.
S Michael
I with Skud....
I went to my local Dollar Tree store and bought a solar cell, led light in a bottle it was quite bright for $2.00 US. It last all night after one day of charging. True it had a battery , but the cost of the battery was nominal, and one came with the bottle. My suggestion. Send the idea to China, they will look at it and produce it for less and it will last longer. The battery is the key... Oh and one last thing... I keep hearing this mantra "for the third" world countries. Here's an idea. make it for the "first world" sell it and use the proceeds to lower the cost of the product to the "third world country". Stop being condescending and enabling; promote self esteem and pride.