Engineering Solar Solutions for Third World Poverty

January 28, 2011

If you liked the story of William Kamkwamba, building wind turbines in Malawi, or the post about a solar startup in Mali, you’ll love this story about a team of young engineers at the University of Michigan, working on a solar solution for third world problems.

As a child in Mali, Abdrahamane Traoré often did his homework by the sooty, dim light of a kerosene lamp.

As an adult in Michigan, he sometimes has a tough time reaching his family back home. Traoré’s mother must walk to a neighboring village to keep a cell phone charged.

Electricity isn’t always a plug away in much of the developing world. That’s why Traoré and University of Michigan engineering student Md. Shanhoor Amin teamed up to develop the Emerald, a personal solar panel the size of a paperback.

The young engineers are the founders of June Energy, an award-winning start-up spending its second semester in the TechArb student business incubator. The company recently received more than $500,000 in venture capital, and it’s about to ship its first 40 domestic orders. Amin and Traoré, along with chief technical officer Allan Taylor, are planning a trip to Kenya and Mali later this semester to test their prototype with the people it was primarily designed for.

The company’s goal is to get the price under $20 for its customers in the developing world.

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