Close your eyes and visualize a night-time world without light. Now you see how half of humanity passes each night--in the dark," says University of Calgary professor Dr. Dave Irvine-Halliday.
Irvine-Halliday, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor wants to change that when he heads to Nepal next week as part of Canada's Everest 2000 expedition. At base camp, he will test a new lighting system he developed with help from U of C students. The trip marks a highpoint in his three-year old Light Up The World-Nepal Light Project.
"[The project's aim] is to provide a safe, healthy, affordable, and reliable form of lighting for rural villages," says Irvine-Halliday.
During a 1997 trip to Nepal, Irvine-Halliday noticed that most rural Nepalis rely on fires, candles or kerosene lamps to light their homes. These methods create air pollution, causing widespread respiratory ailments, and provide insufficient light for reading or studying. His solution is the White Light Emitting Diode.
"We want to make the connection between the lights and education," he says. "With one of these WLEDS, a child could read a book."
WLEDS, first developed by Nichia Corporation of Japan, provide cheap, energy-efficient lighting. They are durable, have a continuous-use life of over 10 years, and require only a tiny fraction of the energy needed to power a traditional incandescent light bulb.
Irvine-Halliday has also focused on developing reliable power sources for the WLEDS, designing a belt-driven pedal system that can be used to directly power the lights or charge a battery. In addition, he has experimented with wind-driven systems. While there are obvious applications for WLEDS in Canada, Irvine-Halliday prefers to focus where the need is greatest.
"If I concentrate on Canada, Nepal will get nothing," he says. "[Nepal] will arguably be the very first country to have White leds being used. You could make the statement that Nepal's leading the world."
Irvine-Halliday's project has created interesting opportunities for U of C Engineering, Environmental Design, and Management students. Closest to the project are fourth-year Electrical Engineering students Danielle Glover, Kevin Deane and Neall Banner, and fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student Jason Degreeve. They have worked since September on a fourth-year project entitled Pico-Power from the Wind, designing and building a wind turbine for powering WLEDS, and improving Irvine-Halliday's pedal generator. They're all happy to be involved.
"I chose it because it was a project that would do some good for people," says Glover.
The others echoed her comment, adding that they appreciate the chance to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, particularly on such an important project.
"It's nice to get in at the grassroots," says Banner. "We're pioneers."
The project is a graduation requirement for the Engineering students, and they've put in countless hours of work. They all agree it's been worth the effort.
"It opened our eyes," says Deane. "It's an exclamation point in our education."
In addition to testing the new systems designed by his students, Irvine-Halliday will head an education program associated with Everest 2000. The Internet-based program for primary and secondary students can be accessed at: <<www.cbc.ca/everest2000>>.
Irvine-Halliday has personally provided most of the funding for his project. The only significant sponsor to date is Nichia, which donated approximately $10,000 worth of WLEDS to the project. He says he hopes the Everest 2000 trip will encourage new donors.