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Solar-Charged LED Lamp

Engineer and entrepreneur Patrick Walsh has created an ingenious device designed to enable people living in developing countries with unreliable power sources to light their homes without having to rely on electricity. His battery-powered, solar-charged LED lamp is inexpensive, bright, safe, and long lasting, making it ideally suited for use in homes with no electrical connections.

A native of Riverside, Illinois, Walsh attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, where he earned a bachelorís degree in engineering physics in 2007. Just after his freshman year at UIUC, Walsh visited India as part of a delegation from Engineers Without Borders (EWB). He and four other EWB members traveled to Badakamandra, Orissa, India to implement a biofuel electrification system which the group converted from a diesel generator. Their aim was to power a spice grinder to generate income, and someday, lighting for the village. Walsh and his team spent two months on-site working on the local infrastructure and preparing the equipment.

Before he left for the trip, Walsh and his group did research on power sources that might work well for the biofuel project. In the course of their research they found solar lights made for use in gardens and yards. They were cheap and effective, and they gave Walsh a very bright idea.

Upon his return he began developing a concept that, over the course of two years of research and design, became a prototype for a product dubbed the SolarFlare. With his test market of India in mind, Walsh says these portable lamps will make it possible to replace kerosene lamps in peopleís homes, which will not only reduce the $38 billion currently needed in fuel supplies every year but will also eliminate the health risks both in terms of indoor air quality and the potential for accidental fires that kerosene lamps create. The lamp is designed to be used everyday, charged by sunlight during the day for operation at night.

Walsh established his own company, Greenlight Planet, Inc., to manufacture and distribute the lamps. He sought support for his venture from the UIUCís Technology Entrepreneur Centerís Student Entrepreneur Learning Lab, after winning top honors in the 2007 V. Dale Cozad Business Plan Competition. He hopes to have at least 1,000 test samples of the SolarFlare available in the spring of 2008.

For his efforts, Walsh was awarded the 2008 Lemelson-Illinois Prize. He was also recognized with a 2007 Mondialogo Engineering Award, given by a partnership between UNESCO and DaimlerChrysler. In early 2007, Walsh received a Sustainable Vision Advanced E-Team grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, and in 2006, his team received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to produce 100 prototype units for distribution in India.

[April 2008]

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