Self-Contained Human and Solar Powered LED Lighting System for Use in the Developing World

EPA Grant Number: SU833925
Title: Self-Contained Human and Solar Powered LED Lighting System for Use in the Developing World
Investigators: Stevens, Robert , Carrano, Andres , Thorn, Brian
Current Investigators: Stevens, Robert , Carrano, Andres , Myers, James , Thorn, Brian
Institution: Rochester Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 14, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Approximately 49% of rural households and 14% of urban households in developing nations live without electricity, most of who rely by fuel-based lamps which are inefficient, costly to operate, and produce large amounts of potentially harmful byproducts and green house gas emissions. It has estimated that fuel-based lighting accounts for about 20 billion gallons of fuel consumed annually at a cost of some 38 billion U.S. Dollars and the emission of 200 million tons of greenhouse gasses. Shifting from fuel-based lighting to electric lighting will reduce negative health and environmental effects of fuel combustion while also freeing time spent on fuel collection to potentially economic and educational activities. To this end, a multidisciplinary engineering student team will design, build, and conduct preliminary tests of a prototype self-contained white LED lamp. A novel technological approach will be to integrate energy collection and storage, as well as light emission in one manageable package.


Develop a highly effective prototype lamp using LEDs and a renewable energy source to replace current fuel-based light used throughout the developing world.


The team will investigate two options for powering the LED lamp: i) photovoltaics with battery storage and ii) clockwork spring with dynamo. The design process will especially take into consideration the reduction of cost and the feasibility for mass production by micro enterprises in the target nations to help bolster the local economies. Product sustainability will also be a primary consideration during the design stage, so a cradle-to-grave analysis will be conducted during the material selection phase of the design. The student team will be challenged to work with representatives of, or the end users themselves to specify the specifications for the lighting system such that it may be used for applications such as cooking, reading, and working. A testing protocol will be developed and carried out to ensure that LED lamp design meets the specifications formulated during the early stage of the design in cooperation with partners. Several prototype units will be field tested by partners. The project will be conducted in the context of RIT’s multidisciplinary senior design program which recently added a track of projects dedicated to sustainable development. RIT’s design program is unique in that projects involve engineering students from mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering as well as other disciplines such as business, industrial design, and the sciences. A preliminary business plan will be created for the development of local micro enterprises for the fabrication and distribution of the LED lamp. This effort will expose a team of undergraduate engineering students to sustainability issues in developing nations and help them understand the potential role of the engineer in addressing those issues.

Expected Results:

Development of a prototype LED lamp suitable for cooking, reading, and working in house with no access to grid power. The lamp will be powered using a renewable energy source. At least six engineering students will be exposed to sustainable design.

Supplemental Keywords:

lighting, human power, solar, photovoltaics, LED,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report