Colombian renewable energy start-up E-Dina and creative agency Wunderman Thompson Colombia collaborated and developed a lantern that converts saltwater into electricity.
WaterLight is a portable lantern that can be powered by half a litre (2 cups) of saltwater into 45 days of light. In case of emergency, it can be powered by urine. WaterLight can also charge small devices like mobile phones or a small radio through a USB port.
The lantern is specifically designed for Wayúu people, an indigenous community living in the remote, desert landscape of the Guajira peninsula on the Colombia-Venezuela border. The area they occupy is an arid desert landscape, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and so has limited access to electricity. Since they are surrounded by sea they have ample resources (seawater) to sustainably power the WaterLight. The community can make use of the abundant natural resource that they have around them, to a safe sustainable way to power their lives. They can use the lantern in their home during night, charge mobile phones or even take them to sea for night fishing.
WaterLight works with the simple chemical reaction of ionisation. Saltwater electrolytes react with the magnesium and copper plates inside the lantern to produces electrical energy. It is a more reliable and sustainable energy resource compared to solar energy. Unlike solar power lanterns which need to transform solar energy to alternative energy, WaterLight generates light instantly. Solar power is weather dependent whereas this innovative device can be used even in bad weather.
WaterLight has an expected lifetime of about 5600 hours is waterproof and is made from recyclable material. It can be used for 2 or 3 years. Once it reaches the end of its life, it can be fully recycled.
The lantern has a cylindrical case made of wood with a perforated cap on top. Saltwater is poured into the device through this cap. Hydrogen gas created during the ionisation process also escapes through this cap.
The creative agency Wunderman Thompson integrated the rich cultural heritage of the Wayúu community in the design of the lantern. Its wooden casing is adorned with the traditional symbols and patterns used by the tribe. The colourful strap of the lanterns is woven by local craftswomen.
The makers of the lantern expect the innovative and sustainable design to benefit millions of people living in coastal areas that lack access to electricity but have easy access to the coastline.