It seems impossible, but the Alinti Pot brings cleaner air and light through the power of…clay!
By Chere Di Boscio
We’ve all heard of solar panels delivering energy and light to those in remote areas. But…plants?
Yes, it’s now possible, thanks to one young Peruvian inventor. Hernán Asto Cabezas has created the Alinti pot, a clay container which merges the energy given by micro-organisms with the energy from the sun to not only bring light to the masses, but to clean the air, too.
Cabezas, who hails from the Huanta district in Peru, has been the winner of many international awards in Innovation and Technology for Alinti. His is the first such invention to ever unite biology and solar energy in a clay container while purifying the air. His unique technology works with five species of electrogenic microorganisms, a tuberous root phytoremediator plant, clay with three types of minerals, and at least one solar panel.
How The Alinti Pot Brings Cleaner Air And Light
The way it works is this: clays of three different types work to condition the artificial habitat of the microorganisms and they then develop naturally, producing energy in the process. In short, the energy produced by the plants is harnessed, and transformed into light. Solar panels are added for an extra boost – plants can generate enough light for a light bulb, and the addition of the panels allows the pot to charge two phones.
The evaporative cooling of the clay can reduce the overheating of the solar panels to a temperature of 10 ° in order to increase their energy efficiency. The paradox of this solar system is that the greater the overheating of the solar panels, the lower the energy efficiency..
But Alinti plants are so much more. For example, they’re also phytore-mediators. That sounds pretty fancy, but what it means is that they basically absorb toxic substances such as benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene and CO2, in a degree of 36% to 45% of micro-particles per one meter of cubic area.
This is great news for the rural people of Peru. Sadly, a lack of education – or in some cases, even caring – in remote areas of the country means that farmers often burn plastic membranes covered in pesticides that were used in the process of strawberry farming. Alinti helps clean the air of the terrible toxins that result from such burning.
Shining More Light
This amazing technology now has two patent applications: one in Peru and the other in Colombia. Other patents in Brazil, Nepal, and the Philippines are on the way, and Cabezas would also like to bring the Alinti pot to India.
But this device isn’t just for the poor in rural regions. Oh no! It’s also aimed at environmentally conscious people around the world, as well as outdoorsy types who may have off grid cottages where they need to charge their cell phones, or to have some reading light.
Cabezas also plans to use his invention on public lighting poles in the parks and streets of Peru and Colombia. His overall vision is one of connectivity, as well as creating air that’s free of pollution.
A Bit Of Background
Until he was 14, Cabezas had no electricity in his own home. He recalls doing his homework by candlelight. At nights in his house, he was often breathing in toxic substances from smoke, and he ended up with respiratory problems.
He acknowledges that in this supposedly sophisticated ‘Age of Technology’ there are still plenty of children who are working by candlelight at night as he did, and he wants to put an end to that.
He asked himself: is there not a way to solve these two problems, the lack of electricity and clean the air?
And that’s how Alinti was born.
Natural Peruvian Materials
“In my region there is a lot of clay and a lot of vegetation. From the school stage, thanks to the advice of my teachers, I made my research trying to provide an ecological solution. I decided to investigate thoroughly plants. For this reason, I looked for ways to find solutions to many problems, such as curing headaches, and curing bone pain from the cold,” he told the Financial Express in an interview.
“So my first investigation was to produce vegetable fibers from milkweeds, it was a very fine fiber, some specialists considered it to be finer than the vicuña fiber. Thanks to the study of this plant, I had got several national recognitions, while in school,” he said.
“I want to highlight and tell you this, since all my success as an inventor started, after researching and reading a lot of literature and science, I found out that plants by the process called photosynthesis eliminate exudates from the roots and that these, together with microorganisms from the soil, decompose, releasing electrons (electricity). And how the mixture of different clays got different results”, he continued.
“Years ago, doing my homework with candles and breathing toxic substances from smoke, I disarmed batteries thinking of making my own battery, and now I found a way to acquire electricity. It was fascinating, wonderful! I had discovered a biological form in the production of the current. I did my tests in the Laboratory and over the years, Alinti was born. Thanks to a host of biologists, electronic experts, chemists and economists, I work with.”
Already In Use
This is not some pie-in-the-sky concept; hundreds of families in Peru and Colombia have already benefited from this technology. They are currently lighting up their homes and charging up to two mobile phones with Alinti.
Cabezas is now trying to spread the use of the device to Lima’s municipality for public lighting in parks. He’s also preparing to launch a new, improved and more sophisticated version of Alinti for eco-minded people. With the profits from those sales, he will re-invest them to help the over 3 million Peruvians who live without electricity.
The project is not without its challenges, though. Although he has received grants from various sources, including the History Channel, Esan University in Peru and the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain, each unit of Alinti costs almost $100. Cabezas is now trying to produce the item in bulk so as to reduce costs and make the Alinti pot more accessible to more people.
There’s no doubt that Alinti is set to change lives. Nonetheless, Cabezas acknowledges that the device is not perfect. Sure, it works with clay, plants, graphite, and PET plastics, which are not terribly harmful materials. However, the battery, solar panels and electronic parts have certain bits that are not eco-friendly, but he is aiming to change that.
With his brains, will, and creativity, I have no doubt that he will do so, and soon.
Main image: Hernán Asto Cabezas and Alinti, Cortesía: Caretas.pe First two images courtesy of Hernán Asto Cabezas Third image: Courtesy Wapa.pe
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