Members Project: sOccketIn Electronics
In many developing countries, heavy reliance on kerosene lamps has led to myriad health problems. The World Bank, for example, estimates that breathing the fumes created from burning kerosene indoors equals the harmful effects of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Burning kerosene for lighting also generates some 190 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, according to recent estimates — the equivalent emissions of about 38 million automobiles.
But four Harvard students are betting that the popularity of soccer around the globe can help reduce the use of kerosene. They came up with the idea for the sOccket, a soccer ball that generates and stores electricity during normal game play. The stored electricity in the ball can then be used to light an LED lamp, or charge a cellphone or battery.
“Soccer is something you will find in every African country,” one founder, Jessica Lin, told Green Inc. “People play for hours a day, so we thought, ‘Why not try to get a little more out of that energy?’ and that’s where the idea ultimately came from.” Ms. Lin and her fellow students — Jessica Matthews, Julia Silverman and Hemali Thakkar — came up with the idea of an energy-harvesting soccer ball as a class assignment. The initial inspiration, they said, came from dance floors that can capture energy from the dancers’ movements.
They are working with a prototyping team and a technical adviser associated with the Laboratory at Harvard, a new idea incubator at the university. The group has also received a handful of grants, including support from the Clinton Global Initiative University. Early prototypes of the ball use an inductive coil mechanism similar to the technology found in shake-to-charge flashlights. The movement of the ball forces a magnet through a metal coil that “induces” voltage in the coil to generate electricity. For each 15 minutes of play, the ball can store enough energy to illuminate a small LED light for three hours, according to initial trials.
The sOccket harnesses the kinetic (motion) energy of the soccer ball during normal game play and stores it for later power needs. After play, an LED lamp can be plugged into the sOccket to provide light for reading and other activities normally impossible after dark. Their original prototype utilized an inductive coil mechanism to generate power, but it only lasted a few months before breaking down, and was very expensive to produce.