2004 Winner: Applied Technology and Innovation
New Technology Lights Up The Lives Of People Across The World
While visiting Nepal in 1997, Dr. Dave Irvine-Halliday was dismayed at the living conditions of villagers whose only source of light after sunset was that produced by dangerous kerosene lamps. He was especially concerned about the children who had to work all day and whose only opportunity to study was by kerosene light, with the risk of unhealthy fumes and fire. Dr. Irvine-Halliday returned to Calgary with a vision to use his background in photonics to change the lives of the two billion people worldwide who essentially live in darkness after the sun goes down because they have no access to electricity. His solution was to apply White Light Emitting Diode (WLED) technology to provide affordable, safe and environmentally friendly home lighting powered by renewable sources.
WLED, a solid-state lighting (SSL) technology, has enormous cost and efficiency advantages over conventional lighting. WLED lamps can light an entire village with less energy than that used by a conventional 100-Watt light bulb. Used six hours a day, WLEDs will last more than 40 years. The Light Up the World (LUTW) Foundation was formed to accelerate the adaptation of this technology around the world. The chief goal of the Calgary-based foundation is to replace fuel-based lighting with SSL technologies to improve the lives of those without access to electricity, and to reduce impact on the environment.
LUTW began by testing WLED lamps in remote Himalayan villages. It has since illuminated the lives of more than 20,000 people in over a dozen countries, including Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic, as well as in a remote First Nation community in British Columbia. LUTW builds relationships with local communities, industry partners and NGOs to deliver projects and reach more people. A fundamental component of LUTW’s approach is to stimulate economic development by helping local entrepreneurs start up businesses to provide installation, maintenance and support services after the initial projects seed the technology.
In addition to providing after-dark study opportunities, LUTW has made it possible for villagers to operate cottage industries by night. It has also provided significant health, safety and environmental benefits in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality. WLED technology is emerging as the lighting technology of the future in the developed world as well. Architects are already using SSL in new homes and buildings as demand grows for cheaper forms of lighting to conserve electricity. LUTW is demonstrating a dramatic opportunity for technology leapfrogging. LUTW’s lamps are manufactured in Calgary, and as world demand increases, Alberta is poised be a leader in this emerging market.