Meet Aisa Mijeno, a Filipino architect and scientist who invented a revolutionary lamp that runs on a glass of saltwater instead of batteries. Her vision in creating the SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) lamp was to “light up the rest of the Philippines sustainably,” by finding an environment-friendly alternative light source suitable for people in coastal areas. She came up with the idea after spending time with the locals of the Butbut tribe in the Kalinga Province of Philippines, who had no access to electricity.
The lamp can apparently run for eight hours on just two tablespoons of salt and a glass of water. “It is made of tediously experimented and improved chemical compounds, catalysts, and metal alloys that when submerged in electrolytes will generate electricity,” Mijeno explained. The idea behind it is the chemical conversion of energy, but while it works on the scientific principle of the galvanic cell, it makes use of a harmless, non-toxic saline solution instead of hazardous electrolytes.
This saltwater lamp not only makes lighting available to remote areas, it’s also a lot cheaper than conventional kerosene or electric lamps, considerably safer since it does not have components and compounds that may spark fire, and, most importantly, it’s environment-friendly since it does not emit toxic gases and leaves a minimal carbon footprint.“This isn’t just a product,” Mijeno said. “It’s a social movement.”
Although the SALt lamp isn’t being mass produced yet, it has received global recognition. Mijeno has won several awards and competitions in Philippines, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea for the work that she put into the device. And The New York Times reported that she recently attended a discussion of climate change hosted by President Obama, where she spoke about the SALt lamp in detail. He called her venture a “splendid thought”, while referring to her as “the perfect example of young entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog technology.”
For now, Mijeno’s immediate challenge lies in finding a way to manufacture the lamp so that it remains durable, economical, and easy to maintain. If it manages to work as promised, it can produce about 90 lumens of light at just $20, plus $3 to replace the anode every six months. That’s perfect for areas with no electricity grid, and safer than kerosene lamps. SALt also features a USB port that can be used to charge mobile phones or other electrical devices. If everything goes according to plan, Mijeno believes the product should be available on the market in 2016.
“The danger in (kerosene) lamps is it could cause fire accidents,” she said. “We want to provide a lighting option that is more cost-effective, more safe, more sustainable and environmentally friendly by way of a lantern that uses saline solution or ocean water as a catalyst to generate electricity.”
“Just imagine, if we’re able to power a whole island using ocean water. That’s what we’re trying to aim for.”