By Omega Mitinda
In Malawi, inadequate energy supply continues to be a major concern and a major limiting factor to its social-economic growth and quality of life of its citizens.
Malawi has one of the lowest electrification access rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Its 351 MW installed capacity, mostly from hydroelectric power plants on the Shire River, provides electricity to less than 11% of Malawi’s population.
For the 80% of people living in rural areas, the situation is even worse as only 4% is connected to the grid, forcing many to resort to unsustainable energy sources, which in most cases are not environmentally friendly.
In an effort to contribute to the university’s strategic plan and contribute to rural development, the university’s Centre for Innovation and Industrial Research (CIIR) in collaboration with an external innovator from the USA, William Mehess, has designed a water light device.
According to officials at CIIR, this is a lamp that functions by use of saline solution only.
“The water light device is based on the principle of voltaic electrochemical cell where chemical oxidation-reduction reaction is used to generate electricity. The lamp is highly portable, does not depend on solar or wind energy. Additionally, it has no adverse effects on the external environment,” reads a brief from the CIIR in part.
CIIR research team leader on the project, Richard Chilipa, said the water light technology device is a very affordable source of light for low income households because it costs approximately K550 per month and the device can stay for a period of more than 12 months without replacing any of its parts.
“Water light technology presents a cheap yet reliable and environmentally friendly solution to households, providing them with good quality light every day. This will bring required solutions in the rural areas and will contribute towards Malawi’s health and education goals,” said Chilipa.
Currently, the CIIR team is developing and modifying the original prototype to fit the Malawian setting and to use locally available materials.
“The team is currently collecting and testing water samples from different areas such as salty water from Chikwawa. We are also working on the Cathode which is the engine of the technology. It is expected that the research will improve the brightness of the lamp and its usage time,” added Chilipa.
With challenges in rural areas, this technology will not only improve quality of life for those without access to grid electricity but also increase productive hours, thereby contributing towards social economic growth.
Unlike other green energy sources such as solar, the water light technology is energy-on-demand source which is both flexible and easy to use.
By Omega Mitinda