Showing the way

A UK-based company has developed a lantern which can provide cheap, reliable, ecologically friendly power. The Glowstar lantern, developed by Intermediate Technology Consultants, is a purpose-built sealed unit containing its own rechargeable battery. The lantern is unique because it is made up of a new type of microchip charge regulator. Kieron Crawley, its designer, says that the regulator will be the key to its success, where other attempts to harness solar energy have failed.

The lantern has been commercially launched in Kenya, where 90 per cent of it population does not have access to electricity. The microprocessor in the lantern constantly monitors the battery to ensure it remains charged. At night it will switch the lantern off rather than allow the battery to go flat. It can also control how much solar energy is conveyed from the solar panel to the battery during the day. "Existing systems do not do this effectively,' says Crawley ( New Scientist , Vol 167, No 2248).