These Cell Phone Chargers Are Literally Dirt Cheap


Dr. Aviva Presser Aiden has earned a $100,000 grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for her design of a cell phone charger which can be built from items ideally costing less than one dollar (discarded window screens, soda cans, dirt, etc.) and charges a phone in 24 hours using microbes in the dirt.  Since some microbes occurring naturally in soil will kick off free electrons, her charger can use a conductive surface to put these free electrons to use in recharging batteries.   She plans to take these Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) to Sub-Saharan Africa, where 22% of the population have cell phones yet 500 million homes lack electricity.

“For households lacking power in Sub-Saharan Africa, recharging a cell phone battery often means a long, possibly multi-hour walk to a charging station, where recharges cost between 50 cents and a dollar,” says Aiden. “Because the per-capita income is several hundred dollars per year, this is a significant cost. Existing solutions for charging cell phones in off-grid areas are inadequate. For instance, a solar-panel based charger costs around $20, and is difficult to even bring to market because of poor access and inability to repair them if they break.” [Harvard SEAS via Gizmag]

Aiden has already built an MFC which has continuously powered LED lights in the lab for 14 months so far.  I just find it amazing that she looked at a pile of items we’d have built impromptu weed pipes out of in college and said, “I can pour some dirt on this and bring a lifeline to the Sub-Saharan Africa with it.”  That’s why she’s the doctor and I’m making d-ck jokes on the internet.