Dye Sensitized Thin Film Solar Cells
A low-cost solar energy solution to bring affordable and clean off-grid lighting to African countries.
G24 Innovations, United Kingdom
It is a sobering thought; there are currently 1.7 billion people around the world without electricity. The problem is at its most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where more than five hundred million people have no access to modern sources of power, and fewer than 2% of the population can tap into rural sources of energy. Recognizing this problem led the World Bank to establish an open innovation competition, ‘Lighting Africa Development Marketplace.’ The challenge was to present affordable, clean and reliable technology solutions to some of the poorest people on the planet.
In 2008 G24 Innovations (G24i) from Wales won a $200,000 grant to develop its technology to illuminate homes in Rwanda. An international panel of experts recognized the pioneering solar energy company for their groundbreaking solar powered LED light which utilizes their proprietary Dye Sensitized Thin Film solar cells. The cells are lightweight; they bend without breaking, are low-cost and silicon free. And even better, they can generate electricity and provide high quality lighting in low-lit conditions.
How it Works
Light initiates the electrochemical reaction, but there’s a fourth ingredient in addition to the anode, cathode and electrolyte. And that’s a light-sensitive dye which releases electrons when excited by photons of light. Different dyes are sensitive to different wavelengths of light.
Open Innovation Contest
The open innovation contest attracted more than 400 proposals for off-grid lighting from 54 countries. Finalists were taken to Accra in Ghana to attend the first ever global business conference for off-grid lighting in Africa and they were met and assessed by the judges.
G24i will use its $200,000 grant to develop and implement its lighting solution and set up large scale distribution in Rwanda. “This prize will make a real difference in helping us to provide a reliable and high-quality source of light for the developing world which does not damage the environment,” said Robert Hertzberg, Chairman of G24 Innovations.
A Brighter Future
The challenge they face could not be more pressing. Lack of access to affordable energy is the biggest cause of poverty in the developing world. And among the poorest of the poor lighting is often one of the biggest drains on household income, but provides little light in return. And the kerosene lamps that people use at night are dangerous and pollute the air.
The benefits that safe reliable lighting products will bring are huge; small businesses can stay open longer, colleges can open in the evening to provide literacy classes and higher education programs, and people will feel more safe and secure at nighttime.
The Fruits of Open Innovation
G24 Innovations plans to distribute 25,000 lights in Rwanda first. And if this is successful the next stage will be to introduce them rapidly to other parts of Africa and to other developing countries.
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