When I was in high school, I accidentally set my bed on fire. I needed to finish reading a chapter for English class, but my parents had a pretty strict “lights out” time. So I took a light bulb, screwed it into a socket, plugged it into an extension cord, and dragged it under the covers. Predictably, I fell asleep without shutting this contraption off, and the hot bulb ended up burning my sheets and starting a small, smoky fire. Although my lack of reading light was due to my parent's rules, when the sun goes down around the globe, millions of children that need to study don't even have electricity. The d-light S1, above, is the world's first solar powered lantern made specifically for students trying to hit the books when there's no easily available light source.
Once the S1's super-bright LED is fully charged, a student who previously might have had just one hour to study now has enough light to last through four hours of homework, exam cramming, or pleasure reading. A World Bank study in Sudan found that “pass rates in an entire village increased from 57 to 100 percent after students were provided with bright solar lighting.” And, since many people without electricity end up using dangerous, air-polluting kerosene lanterns, which according to the 2007 Millenium Development Goals Report kill 1.5 million people a year—half of them kids under the age of five—the health and safety benefits of a solar powered light can't be overlooked.
The device retails for $9.95 in the United States. That would be an investment for poor families in parts of the developing world, but given that those families sometimes spend 30 percent of their monthly incomes on kerosene, a d-light could result in some pretty significant cost savings over time. Best of all, NGOs and individuals can donate the d-light to people who need it.