For Colombian designer Miguel Mojica, design is supposed to transform the world in a disruptive way, while also being committed to sustainability. This mission is embodied by the WaterLight lamp, an amazing invention that can generate light for 45 days straight using only half a liter of saltwater. His creation was awarded a Silver Cannes in the design category and two bronzes in innovation and social responsibility, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2021 held in France.
Electricity is just a given in any Western home, so it's easy to forget that there are still hundreds of millions of people across the world who lack access to electricity, condemning them to a life of poverty and poor health. Thankfully, progress is being made. Globally, the number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2 billion in 2010 to 759 million in 2019, according to the World Bank. Where power lines haven't yet been able to reach households, mini-grids consisting of solar panels or diesel generators came in to fill the gaps, with the number of people connected to mini-grids more than doubling between 2010 and 2019, growing from 5 to 11 million people.
But for some remote households, even a few solar panels are unaffordable. That's where the WaterLight project comes in, which Mojica was inspired to design after visiting poor indigenous communities in La Guajira, Colombia that lacked electricity.
"The WaterLight project emerged to brighten up the life of the Wayúu community in Colombia, to take light to La Guajira, but also to reach any home that needs light but has no access to electricity, so that people can continue with their chores at night, such as adults with their craftwork or fishing, or children with their studies. Being far from my country, Colombia, I felt it was an opportunity to be a promoter of this new revolution for clean energy," Mojica said.
The device generates a small electrical current through the ionization of saltwater. An electrolyte from the saltwater chemically reacts with magnesium. The generated energy powers a LED lamp or can be used to charge small devices such as mobile phones or tablets.
WaterLight is made from recyclable materials, is waterproof, and has a lifespan of 5,600 hours, which should be good for a few years of use. The design of the product features indigenous symbols and a colorful strap that was handmade by native artisans from La Guajira.
"I am convinced that we are increasingly aware of the impact we have on the planet, and I believe in the change that we, the new generations of designers, are creating, as we are committed to sustainable and responsible design. Today it is a reality; sustainability has become an essential requirement when designing, which will surely help solve the new challenges that appear in the future. Furthermore, interdisciplinarity with professionals from the biological, medical and technological fields will be key to take sustainability to our day-to-day surroundings, by designing innovative products," Mojica said.