Mind & Matter


One Million Liters of Light

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A shelter illuminated by a solar bottle bulb. Photo by the MyShelter Foundation.


Lighting is increasingly seen as a promising territory for energy savings. New sunlight-piping technologies provide free illumination during daylight hours to remote locations within buildings, without the added heat and electrical load of artificial illumination.

These technologies are typically based on fiber optics or mirror-clad ducts, and are mainly designed for commercial or institutional buildings in the developed world. However, a current effort by the MyShelter Foundation offers a healthy reminder that access to light is a universal human need, regardless of one's location or economic status.

Thankfully, the MyShelter Foundation's "Liter of Light" project demonstrates the ability to provide daylighting easily and inexpensively to occupants of homes lacking windows or electricity. The primary technology, which was developed by students from MIT, involves repurposing plastic bottles. The bottles are filled with water containing a small amount of bleach, and inserted into precut, galvanized metal roof tiles with epoxy sealant for waterproofing.

The MyShelter Foundation plans to impart light to one million homes in the Philippines this year, noting that as many as 3 million homes outside greater Manila lack access to electricity.

As an effective example of "appropriate technology" (a term used by the MIT students), the solar bottle bulb also offers potential for adaptation and enhanced functionality. For example, the bottle bulbs might also be integrated into walls for horizontal illumination, and solar-powered LEDs could be integrated with the devices to deliver nighttime illumination.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 4:58 PM Tuesday, April 03, 2012

    how intriguing! It's great to see young minds working together to create sustainable solution

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.