Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paperback-Sized Solar Panel Charges Smart Phones

The Emerald is a jewel – a paperback-sized solar panel that charges smartphones in three hours. And its energy-efficient LEDs light up paperbacks for at least eight hours. It’s small. It’s feather-light. And in addition to its cell-phone and USB ports, the Emerald comes with a bag of adapters that turn the device into a electric Swiss Army knife.

Abdrahamane Traoré and Michigan Engineering student Md. Shanhoor Amin had two key criteria in mind as they developed the Emerald: competitive products offer either discrete lighting or basic electricity but not both; and they’re expensive. “Their internal component costs are high,” Amin said. “We developed circuitry that gives Emerald multiple uses at affordable prices."

Traoré's and Amin's start-up, June Energy, recently received more than $500,000 in venture capital, and it's about to ship its first 40 domestic orders. The company's goal is to get the price under $20 for its customers in the developing world, where kerosene lamps are standard fare for readers. “Kerosene lamps provide 60 lumens of light, which really isn't much," Amin said. "It strains the eyes. Our product can give up to 100 lumens, which is ample for reading at night time.” Three more reasons the Emerald will be a hit: kerosene can get expensive, it isn't healthy to breathe in the smoke – kerosene is the primary cause of respiratory illness in regions where it’s commonly used – and all this little solar panel needs is sunlight to turn it into a multi-purpose power source. The students told the story to University of Michigan reporters:
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