Colombian renewable energy startup E-Dina developed a wireless lantern, called WaterLight, that converts salt water into electricity and is more reliable than solar-powered lamps, a Dezeen article explains. And it can also be charged by urine in emergency situations.
The portable device acts as a mini generator that produces light using ionization — by filling it with 500 milliliters of seawater, the salt in the water reacts with magnesium and copper plates inside the device, converting it into electrical energy.
The device emits up to 45 days of light and can also be used to charge a mobile phone or another small electrical device via a USB port.
The WaterLight was created as part of a collaboration between E-Dina and creative agency Wunderman Thompson, which saw that locals in rural parts of Colombia — specifically, the indigenous Wayúu tribe — were struggling to keep the lights on at night.
The companies behind the collaboration say the WaterLight will help fishermen to fish at night and craftsmen to sell a higher amount of orders by allowing them to work at any time. It may even prevent fires, the creators said, as it will stop kids requiring candles at night to finish their homework.
WaterLight device provides approximately 5,600 hours of light
Similar types of initiatives typically rely on solar energy to light communities at nighttime — however, in an interview with Dezeen, Pipe Ruiz Pineda, executive creative director of Wunderman Thompson Colombia, explained that the WaterLight is more practical than solar-powered lanterns.
"Once filled with water, the energy delivery is immediate while solar lanterns need to transform solar energy to alternative energy to charge batteries and they only work if there is sun," Pineda said.
WaterLight has patented a method that, they say, is the first to prolong the effects of ionization, allowing its lantern to produce electricity, and light, for longer periods of time.
The device has a cylindrical wooden outer casing and a perforated cap on top that allows water to flow into the device and hydrogen gas from the ionization process to escape. In its entire lifetime, it can produce two to three years of light, or about 5,600 hours, the startup said.
The WaterLight project is one of many similar initiatives aimed at giving light to rural global communities. In February this year, designer Henry Glogau's desalinating, no-cost skylight was announced as a finalist in the Lexus Design Awards. The device also provides light at the same time as making seawater drinkable.
Since 2013, Liter of Light's global initiative has provided communities with "daylight systems" that provide business and light to poor communities.
Though WaterLight isn't the first initiative to bring light to poor rural communities, it boasts the advantage that it can generate light almost instantly 24 hours a day.