Bright idea: IBM India’s making light from old laptops

Re-using batteries from old laptops could provide a source of light for millions of people in the developing world. Or that’s what IBM Research India is hoping, anyway.

According to Treehugger, their new project aims to provide power to the 400 million people in India living without mains electricity – or some of them, at least.

In a trial project, they took usable lithium-ion cells from the batteries of discarded laptops and pieced them together to make new, workable power sources, adding circuitry to turn them into LED lights. The lights were then given to street sellers and slum dwellers in Bangalore.

After three months, they asked for feedback and found that the recycled batteries had worked like new. Their users also said that they’d welcome brighter light bulbs and (prepare to shudder) rat-resistant wiring, both of which will be added to the final version. In contrast to solar power or other renewable solutions, this device, which its inventors call a UrJar, is much easier to use and relatively cheap to make, costing just £7.

Not only is this a great example of engineering ingenuity, it helps the earth, too. Millions of computer batteries are chucked out every year (50m in the U.S alone) (!) but IBM says 70% of those still have enough power to fire up an LED bulb for four hours a day for an entire year. They now plan to expand their scheme across India and to other countries in future.

Image via Tony Webster’s Flickr.

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