This engineer has a goal: to provide light to as many families as possible.
Her name is Aisa Mijeno. She decided to include social work alongside her engineering and the results are heart-warmingly amazing.
Power shortages and blackouts are of major concern in many countries. Many people take electricity for granted, but as Aisa points out:
“Lack of electricity also persists in other countries like Indonesia (63 million of its population), Myanmar (26 million), Cambodia (10 million), Thailand (eight million), Vietnam (two million), Lao PDR (2.2 million), and Malaysia (200,000).”
With Aisa’s discovery, individuals can have electricity without travelling great distances to fuel their lamps and gather wood for fire.
Aisa Mijeno is provided electricity for millions in need.
During an immersion in 2011, Mijeno had a very close encounter with the Butbut tribe in Buscalan, Kalinga. The experience in turn gave birth to her idea.
“People did not have access to electricity and had to walk 12 hours to reach Bontoc, a town about 50 kilometres away, to get kerosene for their fuelbased lamps. Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is saltwater and we still rely on other expensive means that are dependent on geography, climate, and fuel.”
Mijeno had to leave a position in Greenpeace Philippines due to a lack of financial tenure and in 2010 she went back to her alma mater De La Salle University Lipa. That’s where she won in a technopreneurship bootcamp held by Ideaspace Foundation.
Thus was born Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt).
“I was asked about my marketing strategy and business model, I honestly answered I had zero knowledge on that side, and what I had was born out of compassion for the people I met during my travels,” she says.
SALt is something that can run without batteries or having to plug into an outlet, aided with the help of salt and water. Think of seven candles or even the brightness of a low LED bulb and you’ll get an idea of what 90 lumens of SALt light looks like. Oh, you can also charge your phone with it as it has a USB port!
For now the charging option is an either or. That is, you can either use it for light or use it for charging purposes. But in the future that could change.
It turns out, much of the knowledge-base for this project goes back to a simple chemistry class Mijeno had in high school:
“If you did the lemon battery experiment, that’s basically it. Two different metals submerged in electrolytes produce electricity. For us, we used saltwater. It is an open science… so I will not be surprised if there are existing similar technologies developed out there.”
Aisa pitched her SALt project during the 2014 Ideaspace Foundation demo day.
Mijeno made the decision to design something that will hopefully eliminate the use of kerosene which is the number one contributor for indoor air pollution, and help the 16 million families who belong to the marginalized sector in the Philippines get by much more easily without having to suffer hardships just to light a lamp. Hopefully, now a safer solution will exist while providing that extra time not having to worry about going to get fuel, with family time and study sessions.
Marketing such a product will have it’s difficulties as Mijeno explains:
“There is a certain degree of difficulty when it comes to achieving financials enough to sustain and to scale a social enterprise and/or a hardware startup. It is very difficult to find a middle point wherein we feel that we are not selling it for too much and also not underselling it,” she explained.
Life after Dark using SALt.
The SALt lamp is estimated to run 10-11 years and costs the equivalent to $35 U.S. Having said that, Mijeno hopes to expand that length of operation at least by making the product water and shockproof in the future. She also hopes to bump up the lumen count to 350.
“Considering its use, the initial price of the lamp trumps the sustaining the cost of battery and fuel-based lighting,” she says.
Share Mijeno’s life changing efforts to inspire and encourage more development of this kind so people don’t have to suffer any longer.