September 2, 2013
By The Light Of A Bottle
Alfredo Moser is a modern day Benjamin Franklin. He’s a humble Brazilian mechanic who has come up with an invention that is so simple, and so perfect, that he could easily become a millionaire. But, like Franklin and his round stove, he’s more concerned with helping others.
Moser, according to BBC News, invented a simple way to light a house without electricity. For most of us in the US, this is not a concern, but for many poor and developing countries, this could be a lifesaver.
Moser’s invention is simple. A clean 2-liter soda bottle, some water, a little bleach, and some polyester resin. Presto! You have light. It works through a simple refraction of sunlight. Moser fills a 2-liter bottle with water, adds two capfuls of bleach to discourage the growth of algae, and tops it off with a cap. A black cap, or a film canister works best. Then you drill a hole in the roof and push the bottle up from the bottom. A little polyester resin to keep it from leaking when it rains, and you have a lightbulb that won’t cost you anything.
How bright is it? “An engineer came and measured the light,” Moser said. “It depends on how strong the sun is but it’s more or less 40 to 60 watts,”
Brazil suffers from frequent electricity blackouts, and one of these events in 2002 inspired the Moser lamp. The original idea came from Moser and his colleagues trying to think of a way to raise an alarm during the blackout, should an emergency happen. Moser’s employer suggested starting a signal fire using a plastic bottle filled with water to concentrate the sun’s light. Moser said the idea stuck in his head and he started playing with it.
Moser has made a little money installing his lights in his neighbors’ houses and a local supermarket, but he isn’t really interested in becoming rich. He wants to help people.
That’s where Illac Angelo Diaz comes in. Diaz is the director of the MyShelter Foundation in the Phillipines, which specializes in creating houses using sustainable or recycled materials.
“We had huge amounts of bottle donations,” he says. “So we filled them with mud and created walls, and filled them with water to make windows. When we were trying to add more, somebody said: ‘Hey, somebody has also done that in Brazil. Alfredo Moser is putting them on roofs.'”
Using Moser’s design, MyShelter started making lamps in 2011, and now they train people to create and install the bottles to earn a small income. More than a quarter of the population of the Phillipines lives below the poverty line and electricity is exorbitantly expensive. The Moser lamps have taken off, with more than 140,000 homes have them now.
But it hasn’t stopped there. Moser’s bottle lamps have found homes in more than 15 more countries, such as India, Tanzania and Fiji. Diaz says folks are even using the lamps to power hydroponic farms. By the start of 2014, he estimates that more than one million people will have benefited from the lamps.
“Alfredo Moser has changed the lives of a tremendous number of people, I think forever,” he says.
“Whether or not he gets the Nobel Prize, we want him to know that there are a great number of people who admire what he is doing.”
Image Credit: MyShelter Foundation