Life-Saving Low-Tech: 11 Ideal Third-World Gadgets

How can we manage the needs of the multiplying human population when so many people are already lacking such basic necessities as clean drinking water and a safe source of light? Technology can achieve some amazing things, but many of the solutions offered by the latest high-tech innovations are too expensive to be practical. These 11 lower-tech gadgets, on the other hand, represent realistic options for developing countries.

Tea Candle Generator

(image via: tellurex)

Would you ever imagine that a tea candle could generate enough energy to power your iPhone? The Tellurex tPOD1 (thermoelectric Power on Demand) converts the heat of a very inexpensive tea candle into an electrical current that can be used to power gadgets like phones and mP3 players. The whole thing is about the size of a soup can and includes both an add-on battery pack and a small light. This handy little gadget, which could be invaluable in places where cheap power isn’t available, will be manufactured and distributed if it can raise enough funds through Kickstarter.

TATA Swach: Nanotech Water Purifier

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In India alone, an estimated 400,000 children die each year due to a lack of clean, safe drinking water. A filter called the TATA Swach removes viruses, bacteria and impurities without running water or electricity. The key is a filter that uses paddy husk ash, a substance that is readily available throughout India. The filter can hold 19 liters of water at a time and sells for around $15 (U.S.)

SunSaluter: Cheap, Flexible Solar Power

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The SunSaluter is a rotating solar panel ‘helper’ that follows the sun to increase the panel’s output throughout the day. Made from locally-sourced and recyclable materials like bamboo, the SunSaluter costs just about $10 in materials (compare that to the $600 for a typical commercial version of a ‘solar tracker’ device.) It can be placed beneath any standard solar panel, and its movements enable an increase in energy output up to 40%. Developed by Eden Full, a 19-year-old Princeton University mechanical engineering student, the SunSaluter has won numerous awards and is now in production.

Haitian Desal-A-Nation

(images via: coroflot)

Using just two vessels and some sunlight, Joe Kasper’s invention ‘Haitian Desal-A-Nation’ turns seawater into potable water quickly and cheaply. Designed for an island nation that’s surrounded by water but lacking freshwater for its inhabitants to drink, the device is a miniature distiller that uses evaporation to pull water from one container into another using heat from the sun.

Cooking Pot that Produces Electricity from Heat

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‘There are more than 200 million people in Africa that use mobile phones but lack access to electricity. Some must walk more than a mile and spend more than 15 per cent of their monthly income just to charge their phone,’ says Caleb Light, Chief Financial Officer of Salt Lake City start-up Power Practical. This is exactly what motivated his company to develop the PowerPot, a pot that harvests the heat from the cooking process and turns it into energy that can power a phone. It’s not dependent on sunlight, so this 15-watt portable generator can work any time of day and in any weather. The PowerPot is simply placed on a heat source, like a fire. A larger device called the PowerPot X can even be used to charge larger gadgets. At $148, it’s a little pricey for general use in developing countries, but anyone who would like to own one for themselves can choose to donate one to a field-testing project in Ghana at the same time, or just contribute a little bit of money toward a donation.


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