Design

A Charger That Generates Power When You Shake It


A Charger That Generates Power When You Shake It

Courtesy Shake Your Power/Sudha

Most of the innovative lights designed with the developing world in mind use solar power. The devices charge in the sun during the day and can be used to read or cook by at night, a critical source of clean energy where electricity is in short supply. But they’re not usually fun.

Enter Spark, a gadget that generates power when you shake it like a maraca. The palm-sized plastic shell contains a rechargeable battery that, when rattled for 12 minutes, powers the attachable LED light for an hour. When Spark is “played,” a magnet passes through a coil of copper wire, generating a current that juices up the battery. Users can then plug the light into the USB port.

Courtesy Shake Your Power/Sudha

Sudha Kheterpal, a London-based musician, developed the shaker as a way to deliver both power and music to communities in Kenya, where 70 percent of the population lives off-grid. The percussionist has toured with the likes of Dido, Faithless, and the Spice Girls to packed stadiums. “For many years I have wondered whether the huge amounts of energy created from performing on some of these stages could be harnessed and used,” she wrote in the Guardian. Spark is her answer.

Kheterpal is looking to raise £50,000 (about $86,000) on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to produce the first 1,000 shakers, as well as to continue prototyping and researching materials such as recycled plastic. She also wants to make DIY kits for schoolchildren so they can understand the technology of the devices by assembling them.

The outside form, designed by Diana Simpson Hernandez, looks like a faceted heart, although Kheterpal says that the inspiration is two flint stones coming together “to give birth to a powerful new source of energy.” The shaker contains a mix of metal and organic beads whose sound resonates through holes in the outer casing.

Spark is similar in concept to Little Sun, a solar-powered light designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Both devices are clean-energy alternatives to kerosene lanterns used in off-grid areas. Kerosene is unhealthy—an evening of breathing a kerosene lamp’s emissions is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes—and can eat up 10 percent to 25 percent of a family’s monthly budget.

Kheterpal expects to supply Spark to rural schools in Kenya next spring before expanding distribution to the rest of Kenya and eventually, to other African countries. At this stage in the project’s development, she says, it’s unclear how much the device will cost to make.

Lanks is the design editor of Businessweek.com.

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