Project type: Development

Inventor: Dr. Teng Long, Engineering
Mentor: Steve Compton

Electrical power can often be a scarce or expensive resource in low and middle income countries. Cooking and lighting may be done with kerosene or solid fuels rather than electricity, and mobile phones may be recharged using car batteries. In regions without clean water supplies it will also be necessary to boil drinking water, increasing further the need for fuel. Kerosene for lighting and cooking can be the single largest item of expenditure for poor families, and wood supplies are being continually eroded, which means women need to walk as much as 15km every day to gather fuel.

Dr. Long works in the field of power electronics, looking at making the use of electricity and the generation of electricity more efficient. His previous research has included developing a new solar cell inverter which can increase the output of solar panels, developing a more efficient drive system which can be used in electric cars, improving high density power modules for data centres, and also developing a method for wireless power transfer (ie wireless charging) across air gaps of up to 100mm.

Dr. Long now wants to turn his attention to helping improve people’s lives in low and middle income countries. Because electricity is so widely-used, he has a plethora of opportunities to choose from.

The challenge for the i-Team is to identify the areas where more efficient electrical systems would have the biggest impact. Which applications have the greatest need for electrical power and what sources of power would it replace? Would his technology make electricity accessible or affordable by more people?

As a second question, the team will also be asked to look specifically at the use of induction stoves, which is an example application for Dr. Long’s technology. What technical and social hurdles would need to be overcome to make induction stoves a realistic approach in low and middle income countries?