When people don’t have access to electrical power, or when power has been destroyed by a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane, progress can only be made during limited daylight hours. It’s also estimated that 1.6 billion people live without electricity, which restricts the hours for activities like cleaning, sewing, socializing or studying. Enter the first low-cost inflatable and foldable solar lamp in the world—the SolarPuff.
Invented by Alice Min Soo Chun, a designer and professor at the Parsons New School for Design, the SolarPuff is lightweight, portable, solar-powered LED lantern. After the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, a foldable, origami-inspired prototype was designed to be a viable emergency response lighting solution during crisis situations as well as an economical off-grid lighting solution for the developing world. Today, their Kickstarter campaign is helping fund and supply light for disaster relief in Nepal.
Chun is a co-founder of FAARM, a New York-based non-profit design collective that works to help underserved communities in a number of ways. Founded to provide climate-friendly, sustainable design solutions for economically and disaster-challenged areas, FAARM has designed relief centers, a medical clinic, and a school in Haiti since 2010. The SolarPuff is FAARM’s first product to help supply a portable, affordable lighting solution.
The SolarPuff answers an immediate need for people who have no access to light. In addition to providing light during the wake of disasters like the earthquakes in Haiti or Nepal, it can also be a replacement for kerosene lamps, which contribute to global warming and create unhealthy indoor air conditions. It is often expensive and infeasible for many developing areas to pay for an established electrical source or service. Without needing to purchase batteries or kerosene, the SolarPuff is a cheaper alternative to flashlights and kerosene lamps. It’s also more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and there’s no danger of fire.
The solar-powered lantern, which weighs only 2.5 ounces, pops open easily to emit light from a ring of LEDs. Where only a few flashlights might fit into a single box, dozens of SolarPuffs can be packed because they fold flat, making it ideal for disaster relief shipments. The SolarPuff can supply 8 to 12 hours of light after its lithium-ion battery is recharged with a thin solar panel in 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight. The durable lantern is also waterproof and can float, so it can be used outside in stormy conditions—or for more enjoyable water and camping activities.
Photos and video via Solight Design
SolarPuff’s simple cube design makes the sustainable lighting option attractive to those who can even afford it for their home or camping trips. Solight Design, the company formed by FAARM to market the product, is working on programs like Tom’s buy-one-give-one model. So purchases in the U.S. or wherever SolarPuffs are sold will help subsidize clean, sustainable lighting for other communities in need.
The SolarPuff is currently available in Japan and the U.S., and can be purchased from Solight Design for $30.00. You can also back the SolarPuff project on Kickstarter and give to Nepal Disaster Relief funds today!
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