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Aisa Mijeno invented a lamp that runs on saltwater to bring light to poor, rural communities in the Philippines that are not connected to electrical grids.
It all began when Aisa Mijeno quit her corporate job to volunteer and travel with Greenpeace Philippines. As part of that she lived with people of the Butbut tribe in the majestic Kalinga mountains.
She realized that as they were not connected to the electricity grid, their only source of fuel was kerosene. To get that they had to walk twelve hours, to and from the nearest town. And because they were too poor to buy it in bulk, they had to do this every other day!
The children of the community studied in the light of kerosene lamps that emitted toxic fumes that affected their lungs. Not to mention that the lamps were a fire and an environmental hazard.
She was moved by their plight, and decided to find a clean, sustainable solution to the problem. “I’ve seen that nobody is trying to help these people. That is difficult to witness,” she says with tears in her eyes, in this video.
She asked herself what items are easily and cheaply available in their homes that she could use to create a solution. The answer –water and salt! She invented a lamp that can run on saltwater, using principles that we all learn in high school chemistry — two different metals submerged in electrolytes, will produce electricity.
However, the lamp is not as ordinary as it appears on first glance. It produces light upto 90 lumens, i.e. the brightness of seven candles lit together, or of a low-LED bulb. It also comes with an USB slot which can be used to charge a mobile phone.
Setting up SALt, (Sustainable Alternative Lighting), with her brother Raphael, who serves as its CFO, she now aims to get these lamps to the people who need it the most. While it is already cheap, she subsidizes it further for the poorest of the poor. For every SALt lamp that is bought, they give one lamp to a selected family.
She acknowledges that there are challenges to achieving her dream. As she says in this conversation with US President Barack Obama and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, (video below) “We have the passion…but we need a support system from the private sector and the government to mentor us and guide us.” But she is confident about the future, “Your only limit is your imagination on how to put the application in the core technology.”
For this life-changing invention, Aisa has received many awards and recognitions, including, ASEAN SME Sustainability Commitment- ACSSA 2015,Philippines, Asia Entrepreneurship Award 2015,Japan, Woman in Business Startup of the Year, Community Winner(November) – Better Awards 2015, Netherlands.
There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines and most of these islands do not have access to electricity. This lack of electricity is a problem in many other countries too, such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia etc. Aisa’s invention is bringing light into the lives of those suffering from energy poverty –literally!
The theme of International Women’s Day, 2019, which falls on March 8th, is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. #IWD2019
With women still a minority in science, technology & related innovation, it’s time to shine a spotlight on female innovation champions! Enjoy our Women Innovators Around The World series, where we profile 19 inspiring women innovators, from 19 countries, whose work has a big social impact.
Want to know what other innovations women around the world have pioneered? Read about Leila Velez and Zica Assis here.
Image source: YouTube
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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