The Re: LAMP research project uses design to explore the applied use of renewable biomaterials to create carbon zero solar lighting systems in India. Solar street lighting is the most rapidly growing sector in the global solar market, yet its constituent materials - steel, concrete, molded aluminum, and plastic - are far from ‘green’. The project integrates the study, testing, design and prototyping of biomaterials with innovations that combine ‘hi’ and ‘low’ tech manufacturing found in rural villages. Holistic management strategies that utilize soft infrastructure expand economic opportunities for existing, local manufacturers in biomaterial production and solar streetlight entrepreneurship.

Working with skillsets of semi-nomadic tribal harvesters, renewable bamboo streetlights are grown with a simple, pre-formed spring camber, using an adjustable 3D printed collar. The research demonstrates how the ‘weakness’ of a single stalk of bamboo - its bendability - can be leveraged to create a new level of lighting flexibility, portability and adaptability that transforms western, modern ideas of fixed streetlight infrastructure.

Working with an Indian start-up in Bangalore and with a local areca leaf plate manufacturer in Ujire, the research team determined the minimum bending radius of wet areca leaves. To reduce carbon emission and diesel powered molding machinery, the team created a digitally fabricated cold-molding form and process to modify the local plate manufacturer’s existing equipment and work flow, which enables the owners to expand their local employees. Taking advantage of the bending “weakness’ of molded areca, a biomaterial living hinge was developed in the first product: a home lighting system. Prototypes are now underway to substitute areca for the investment molded aluminum and plastic streetlamp head.
With conventional polycrystalline solar panels and re-cycled rechargeable batteries, this research demonstrates that it is possible to save over 400 kg of carbon emissions per light, through the use of native, abundant biomaterials and local, distributed manufacturing. When the materiality of infrastructure changes, a cascade of new possibilities opens up. The Re: LAMP project is intended to serve as a memorandum to the solar lighting industry that colonial assumptions of top-down ‘hard’ infrastructure need to be challenged, and that embodied energy “in” as well as operational energy “out” must be considered. There are viable alternatives to constrained oil based resources. New industries, components and livelihoods can be designed and grown with abundant, renewable and local biomaterials.

Date: Energy Networks in Rural Communities
Status: Ongoing
Client: SELCO India
Location: India
Design Team:
Sheila Kennedy, FAIA; Principal
Robert White, Huda Jaffer, Varsha Sastry, Assad Jaffer
Research Assistants:
Joe Varholick, Charlotte D'Acierno, Danniely Staback, Anne Graziano, Ching Ying Ngan, Alice Kao
Special Thanks:
Lemelson Foundation
Santhi Davedu, Khyati Shukla, Ujire Areca Manufacturer

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