A simple and bright solution that could light up the world

Monday, 4 March 2013


For people in Europe, the availability of energy is practically taken for granted. To get warm water we turn on the tap, to control our TVs we press the remote control, and whenever it gets dark we just flick a switch for illumination. Things couldn’t be simpler. For millions of people in developing countries, however, these conveniences remain a luxury. One country facing this challenge is the Philippines.

Inside the shacks that form Manila’s slums, it remains pitch black even during the daytime. Although the sun shines brightly, its rays are unable to penetrate the windows of the corrugated iron homes, built impossibly closely together. At the same time, the thick electrical cables of the sprawling metropolis do not reach beyond the official edge of the city to supply its poorest residents. Those who can afford it use candles or batteries, though with thousands of house fires triggered each year, the consequences can often be fatal.

By the end of the year, Illac Angelo Diaz hopes to provide eco-bottles to one million households in the Philippines – hundreds of volunteers are helping him out. Image: Sidney Snoeck, 2011 MyShelter Foundation



So how could these poor districts be illuminated without laying expensive electric cable? Or to put it more succinctly – how can there be light without electricity? The vision of Illac Angelo Diaz, the founder of the MyShelter Foundation, shows that a huge investment is not always necessary to solve a problem – sometimes a clever idea is enough. “Liter of Light” is exactly that, and involves a self-assembled, environmentally friendly solar bottle light bulb. Diaz explains:


Our project is based on a simple concept – there is plenty of sunlight, plenty of people who want to do good and plenty of rubbish. We set out to find a solution to the problem of a lack of electricity that would help people in the long term.


All you need to make a solar bottle light bulb is a piece of metal, a used plastic bottle, some water and a little bleach. The liquid is mixed together in the bottle, and the bottle is then secured in a hole in the roof of the shack using a piece of corrugated iron. The sunlight that falls on the bottle from above is scattered within the home and produces a 360-degree light equivalent of a standard 60-watt bulb.

The benefits of the idea, which was originally dreamt up by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), are clear: a “Liter of Light” is incredibly cheap to produce, as everything that is required can easily be found in the slum; it is environmentally friendly, as the bottle lights work for years without producing any waste or consuming energy; and it has a an excellent social impact.


“People supporting our project don’t just invest in some metal or plastic bottles – they also help ensure that lower income families don’t have to spend any money on lighting for many years,” comments the founder of the MyShelter Foundation, which administers the project.

By the end of the year, Illac Angelo Diaz hopes to have illuminated one million homes in the Philippines with the intelligent eco-bottles. A further benefit of “Liter of Light” will certainly help in this aim – the bulbs are so easy to build and install that anyone can do it. Hundreds of volunteers are already helping Illac to realise his vision, with numbers growing every day.

For further information on “Liter of Light”, see: www.isanglitrongliwanag.org

Image: Joey De Leon / literoflight.org