Another episode in the Leapfrog Lighting series...
Portable Light, developed by the University of Michigan and Kennedy & Violich Architecture, is a series of prototypes which integrate flexible solar cells and super bright LEDs into lighting solutions for the large number of people (over 2 billions) who do not have access to electric light or power. The system could also benefit the "first world" where there is a growing need to imagine energy efficient alternatives to the centralized and costly electrical grid. So far, the prototypes developed include: the Portable Light, the Community Power Bag, the Portable Reading Stool, the Portable Store Front and the Portable Workshop.
The use of high brightness solid state lighting (hBLEDs) means that a light of 80 lumens per watt (bright enough to read, work and illuminate area at night) can be produced by a single miniature diode and powered by small solar panels.
Quoting Katherine Moriwaki: The long term goal is to integrate the technology directly into the textile, but for now theyve done a great job of incorporating off-the-shelf components into architectural and functional designs.
This line of technology development is very important as we must continue to reduce energy consuption (and wasted heat) for lighting and as we move forward with programs to electrify the 40% of the world population not presently having access to this critical infrastructure (for sustainable economic growth).
A high tech and costly solution to a dirt cheap and low tech task.
If you only need 80 lumens look to a clockwork wind up mechanism or a gravity driven clockwork to drive a minigenerator to power it.
Hell one of the oldest lighting ideas around is to run a small wind turbine to pump water into a tank then release the water through a small turbine to power a light.
Other alternatives are a hand-cranked dynamo or a generator attached to a bicycle so that you can generate power as you ride both for a bike light and to charge batteries for a reading light.
Recently, I sent my proposal for a series of small-scale solar devices that would include the reading light and build up from solar toys to one window solar systems for daily and emergency use to a product development firm. They sent me back a letter refusing to work on such projects because they are not patentable.