I am ‘borrowing’ part of my headline from an initiative of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City which run last year an exhibition called: ‘Design for the other 90%‘.
This exhibition touched on the fact that most cutting edge technological developments are accessible to only 10% of the world population while the other 90% does not have the means to operate them because there is no electricity available in remote areas.
Addressing this issue, a team at KVA MATx under the lead of Sheila Kennedy , Principal at KVA MATx has developed a concept using textiles with integrated flexible solar panels to convert sunlight into electrical energy, providing a completely self-contained source of renewable power and light, the Portable Light.
At the time the Portable Light concept has been developed it was ‘revolutionary’ as the use of flexible solar panels was very new.
Flexible solar panels can be integrated into ‘everyday products’ like bags or blankets minimizing the materials needed to create a portable power generator. The electricity is stored in the integrated battery which drives two high brightness LEDs giving people in remote areas reading and working light after sunset or allow them to charge other essential electronic devices.
A brilliant idea that could indeed bring the other 90% of the world population delight into their homes.
Two years later, flexible solar cells in bags and even in clothing became reality as the many wearable solar products featured on talk2myShirt show.
Only, the relative high cost of flexible solar panels will make solar bags accessible to the 10% part of the population and I am afraid not to the 90% which very likely will not have the money required to buy solar bags.
Sure, a torch and a pair of batteries would be cheaper but the materials used to produce the torch are less sustainable than textiles. The batteries have to be replaced frequently and will fill up the landscape, polluting the environment.
The idea of using ‘everyday’ products like bags and upgrade them to a Solar Power generator with illumination is great. Accessible to some right now for remote camping places but not yet to the ‘Other 90%’.