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Charging a cellphone may seem ubiquitous to many of us, but in the developing world it can be a challenge.
Cellphone usage continues to grow in Africa and Asia, where approximately 650 million users have to rely on off-the-grid charging methods.
Even with this alternative source of power, there are great imbalances between how much people in developing countries earn and how much it costs to fully charge a phone.
In Uganda, for example, it costs about 500 Ugandan shillings (about US$0.20) to maintain a full battery. For someone who makes less than US$1 a day, this expenditure can become a great burden.
London-based Buffalo Grid has developed a solar-powered cellphone charging station that can help people in developing countries overcome their cellphone-charging challenges.
It uses a 60-watt photo-voltaic panel, which charges a battery. Solar energy is extracted in the portable micro-generator via Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), and thus provides on-demand mobile electricity.
To activate the system, the cellphone owner sends a text message to the device. When the message is received, an LED light lights up, signaling that it is ready to charge the phone.
This portable charging station helps to shelve electricity costs. On average, each text message allows a phone to be charged for about one-and-a-half hours. A fully-charged Buffalo Grid unit can last for up to three days, and each unit comes with 10 charging points that can be used to charge about 30 to 50 cellphones each day.
Moreover, the off-the-grid power unit can also be used in medical and educational applications.
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