Feb. 5 - A British company is offering a safe and efficient alternative to the dangerous kerosene lamps that are in wide use throughout the developing world. Called ''Gravity Light'' the electric-powered device costs just five dollars, using the force of gravity to keep the light switched on. Jim Drury went to meet its creators.
The aftermath of a deadly kerosene fire. It's an all too common tragedy in African communities where electricity is non-existent and kerosene is seen as the best alternative for cooking, heating and light, despite the risks. But British design firm Therefore.com believe they can do better...with the five dollar GravityLight. Co-creator Jim Reeves says it will provide half an hour of low-level lighting with just a three second pull of a bag.... SOUNDBITE (English) JIM REEVES, CO-CREATOR OF GRAVITYLIGHT, SAYING: "The product consists of the generator ambient light unit. It's shipped in a very robust bag that takes ballast. You take it out of its bag, you fill this bag with gravel, whether that be aggregate, sand, soil. You attach the bag, you hang the product, and when you lift the bag then you have your light source." The light strength is adjustable and these two terminals allow it to be used as a generator to recharge radios and batteries. And unlike kerosene lamps, the Gravity Light is safe to use. It produces no carbon dioxide, requires no batteries and won't catch fire. It's also much less expensive. Co-creator Martin Riddiford says it's an ideal bridging technology. With the savings made by using the Gravity Light rather than kerosene, community members can eventually purchase more powerful, but expensive, solar systems. SOUNDBITE (English) MARTIN RIDDIFORD, CO-CREATOR OF GRAVITYLIGHT, SAYING: "The trouble with solar technology is that you have to charge a battery with the solar power that you've gained from the Sun and then use the battery power to power the LEDs at night. In Africa there is a problem with the cost of units, so it was really important to find the cheapest way of supplying reasonable quality light to these people." Having exceeded their funding goal via crowdsourcing, the company now plans to ship a thousand devices to rural communities in Africa and India, to test their effectiveness. SOUNDBITE (English) JIM REEVES, CO-CREATOR OF GRAVITYLIGHT, SAYING: "We wanted to take a large number of the devices out to the intended end users, get feedback on how the product would perform in the field....whether the product met their needs and whether or not further developments were required, how easy is it to install, how much do people understand the prodiuct semantically, does it make sense to them as a lighting device." Reeves says the feedback will help his team refine the product, and bring a safe, reliable power source to the more than 1.5 billion people across the world living off the grid.