On Monday Jan 10th, I worked with a group called Morflex, which is associated with FabLabLima but comprised of mostly architects, and run by the architects Roxana Garrido and Jesús Peña. As they've been working on some renewable energy designs, we took the opportunity to experiment a bit with wind-powered lights. I also had the pleasure of inviting Andrea Sreshta of the Solar Light Pillow Project to lead a workshop with me on the following Thursday.
The windmills were made from old electric motors connected directly to LEDs, with blades made from plastic bottles. At first we had trouble getting the LEDs to remain lit, but it became clear that the balance of blade size, number and shape of blades, motor size and gearing, was somewhat delicate. Once we hit upon designs that worked, they could light several LEDs with even a small motor.
The possibilities are somewhat limited without a battery, but the idea of reusing old motors (which we bought for ~40 cents each at the fabulous Paruro street in Lima) to provide useable light was interesting, and it gave Morflex an introduction to soldering and a sense of how much power it actually takes to produce light. We even experimented with some organic designs, using the leaves of nearby plants to make turbines.
The solar light workshop went well too -- Andrea's team has put together an extremely low-cost design (~$4 each in quantity), and we assembled complete circuits as well as designed a range of new shapes such a lamp could take. Since it relies on solar power to charge its batteries can be entirely sealed in a protective and diffusing inflatable case.
For PLOTS, I'm interested in how such designs (sealed, self-sufficient, and/or extremely inexpensive) could help us set up outdoor sensors at low cost.