Business, Economics and Jobs

New soccer ball can generate electricity


(Image by Flickr user Mr.Fink's Finest Photos (cc: by-nc-sa))

A group of Harvard students have invented a soccer ball that charges electricity with each kick. The ball can then be used to power a light. Popular Mechanics have already called it one of the breakthrough innovations of the year. The Harvard students responsible for the invention are calling it "sOccket." Hemali Thakkar, a graduating senior at Harvard and one of the creators of the sOccket, told PRI's Living on Earth:

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

We saw that there was this universal love of soccer around the world and we saw this huge need for electricity and we said, 'hey, why not, why not put the two together.' And that's how sOccket came about.

The invention works by using magnetic charges. A magnet inside the ball bounces back and forth through an inductive coil, allowing an internal battery to capture current that can be used later on. It's the same technology that a shake-flashlight uses to generate and store power.

The ball requires only fifteen minutes of use to power a single LED light for three hours, says Thakkar. After playing with the ball, a light can be plugged into an electrical socket on the outside of the ball. This socket can support a direct-current electrical plug, which is standard in developing countries.

Creating a sustainable energy source for developing countries is about more than simply the ability to see at night. It's an attempt to solve a public-health problem as well, Thakkar says. Over 1.5 billion people worldwide use kerosene lamps to light their homes -- a practice that is directly linked to respiratory infections, which account for the largest percentage of childhood deaths in developing nations.

During South Africa's World Cup, the Harvard students partnered with a design firm to create twenty prototypes of the ball They gave the prototypes to WhizzKids United, an organization dedicated to HIV care and prevention using soccer to reach at-risk kids. Marcus McGilvray, founder of WhizzKids United says, "The ball stood up to the conditions and it held out really well."

After some minor adjustments, the Harvard team hopes to have a new version of the ball on shelves next summer. Proceeds from American sales would support a buy-one-give-one model, so groups like Whizzkids in South Africa could start including the balls into their own programs. McGilvray told Living on Earth:

sOccket really gives it a whole new dimension to be able to show them what innovative inventions are coming up around the world. You know, it gets young people to think, 'Wow!, You know, I think these are great things for children to learn from.'

You can watch a video about the project below: