Home » Uncategorized » Dirt Could Power Cell Phones in Africa

Dirt Could Power Cell Phones in Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 22 per cent of households have mobile phones. People who live in remote areas benefit from mobile phones as they can use them to contact health care practitioners, or use health care apps and stay connected with their family and friends. Yet over 500 million people living in the region lack power in their homes. Many people have to walk long distances to charging stations, paying between 50 cents and a dollar per charge. While solar chargers are one alternative, they can be costly, and are often not even offered due to the lack of repair opportunities.

A team from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences  might have a solution. The team received a $100,000 grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to work on a microbial fuel cell-based charger; a mobile phone charging system that gets its power from microbes in the soil. The device incorporates a conductive surface, that harvests free electrons created by naturally-occurring soil microbes during the course of their metabolic processes. The device has managed to power LED lights in a lab for 14 months. Once the device is ready for development, two researchers from the team will go to Africa to conduct a field study.

The team hopes that Africans will be able to assemble the chargers from readily-available materials like window screens and soda cans, and should be able to fully charge a phone within 24 hours.

Photo: Gates Foundation

About Silvia Pikal

Check Also


Try Oculus Rift And Wii To Roam Around On The Back To The Future Hoverboard

Check out how you can fly in virtual space by using an Oculus Rift and a Wii Balance Board.


Amazon Appstore for Android Holiday Deals, Including Free Apps

There are tons of deals from the Amazon Appstore that will be offered starting now and throughout the holiday shopping season. They say that they will have "hundreds of titles that are eitehr free... or available between 50-90% off" the regular price.


Black Friday: Google Play Store Apps, Games and Content on Sale All Weekend

Case in point, if you head over to the Google Play Store right now, you'll find that Google is celebrating all Cyber Weekend with discounts on all sorts of content. This includes many popular apps and games


Black Friday Deal: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-Inch for $100 Off

Did you manage to score any epic Black Friday deals this morning? Are you still ...


Arduino Co-Creator Releases Plans for $200 DIY Mobile Phone

Mellis was one of the people who came up with the now hugely popular Arduino platform and now he has come up with plans for people to build their own cell phone for about $200 in parts.


No Discounts for Apple Black Friday, Just Free Gift Cards

If you were hoping to save yourself some cash as you brave the Black Friday shopping crowds, you'll want to go somewhere other than the official Apple Stores.

  • Anonymous

    Wow it can power a single white LED. So that’ll be 3v @ 20mA or 0.06W
    What on Earth use is that?

    • http://www.mobilemag.com/ Mobile Magazine

      @quatermass:disqus Apparently after 24 hours it will have charged a cellphone. This could be good in a country that leaves many people without the resources to buy power.

    • Anonymous

      No, not with it only being able to produce 0.06W. A phone requires 5W per hour. That is almost 100x!

      Obviously whatever they are talking about, isn’t the object shown in the photo.

      I suspect it is much, much larger!