The NightReader is put on top on a magazine, illuminating about one paragraph of the text..
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Authors Anna Goelnitz
Location Maastricht, Netherlands
Instance of Lighting
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Why should education be improved for the billions of impoverished students worldwide? Because progress for these impoverished students is dependent upon their education, which must improve in order for them to be successful. Poverty is a disadvantage, affecting students differently, dependent upon their situation.

  • Poverty reduces the chance of young people to study at home. Cramped interior space used by many people along with insufficient interior lighting are negative factors to be overcome. Students in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, dramatically illustrate these conditions: even when it is raining, students gather under streetlights to study, protecting their books with plastic.
  • To study, illumination should be of good quality. Some housing conditions in impoverished communities normally do not offer good quality illumination. Illumination from overhead florescent tubes is too weak, light from gas-lamps may be strong enough, but radiates heat, creates sharp shadows, and attracts insects. The commonly used torches (U.S. "flashlights") could be somewhat effective, if the cost for the short lasting batteries would not be prohibitive.

Illumination for reading and writing may be the most important factor to consider. What each student needs is an available source of light that's easy to move around and doesn't attract insects. A mobile reading light gives students a chance to make the best use of their space. Additionally, a reading light should be almost free of cost, yet be very effective and practical. Billions of students around the world are in immediate need of such a reading light. In order for students to have access to such reading lights, a way of providing the lights in big quantities has to be designed. Therefore it should be easy to make it with the help of a construction manual relying only on local resources. The design of the reading light has to fulfill the above-mentioned functional conditions, a method that can be locally reproduced, and integrated in a campaign to spread the news among youngsters that are concerned.

How does it work[edit | edit source]

The tin box is folded open. There are three compartments for batteries.
  • Obtaining an education requires time be put aside for study. Four hours after sunset can be utilized with a proper reading light, called the NightReader. Compared to the heat of the day, these hours have the charm of relaxing coolness, especially when sitting outside. These hours are ideal for studying; it is easier to concentrate one's thoughts while reading and writing. Moreover, outdoor space is the only space available for students to escape the hindrance of cramped housing conditions. Outdoor space is only useful if study resources can be illuminated, while not attracting insects. It is extremely difficult to write and read while insects crawl over the lamp, the book, and the papers.
  • How do you solve the dilemma of a person needing to study outside while at the same time wanting few "buggy" disturbances? The solution is the NightReader. Two LED-lights, attached to a box with batteries are placed on the page or paper to be read. The LED's only illuminate a few lines of the text at a time, not attracting insects. LED's are the ideal light source for this purpose. LED's are high tech electronic components that are constructed to emit a small amount of light, that is just enough to read with. LED's consume little current, only 10 milliamperes, 50 times less than a bulb for an electric torch. Their construction is robust, its functional life is practically unlimited, assuming the voltage does not exceed its maximum. The NightReader has a 2 Volt charge. The electric current that still can be drawn from batteries, too exhausted for use in a torch or radio, can be enough to make the LED's light up. Many nearly exhausted batteries are available for use. The design for the NightReader uses this property to get free energy to power the LED-lights. The LED's are attached to a box that can house only three batteries, thereby limiting the maximum voltage derived from the batteries. The LED's will emit light, whether these batteries are almost exhausted or brand new, thanks to the design of a simple electric circuit. The battery box will take any of the three common sizes of batteries, pen-light (AA), half and full. Being nonspecific on size, the chance of getting a set of batteries that works is the best. Last but not least, the LED's cost only 20 Euro cents per piece when bought in large quantities.
  • The NightReader, constructed with the help of a construction manual by its user or by people around, uses only local scrap material, such as tin or roof sheet metal for its housing, electric wire from wrecked cars, or foam plastic from an old mattress to fill up the difference in space when different sizes of batteries are used. Regarding cost, only the LED's have to be bought. For the construction of the NightReader, no special tools are needed, but with a few simple templates and folding guides, construction becomes very easy and takes little time.

Technical Specifications and Suggestions for Circuits/Parts[edit | edit source]

The target for the electronic circuit should be inexpensive, robust, and long lasting (>5 years). Charging during daytime (not in direct sunlight), which should deliver a capacity for 4 hours use at night.

  1. 2 LED's, white light, small capacity (~ 5mA?)
  2. 1 NC-cell or better quality 1.5 volts, small capacity
  3. Switch operated by laying the NightReader on a surface, putting down = off, lifting up = on.
  4. DC/DC converter to raise voltage from voltage NC-cell to voltage needed for best performance LED's (possibly dimmed, not full capacity). Possible brand Newport, see
  5. Solar cell, voltage sufficient for charging NC-cell. Dropping the device should not result in cracking, so using a flexible type, easily attached to the mirroring cap, is preferred.
  6. A diode to prevent leaking back of current through the solar cell. (This is probably unnecessary, --Lonny 16:53, 17 February 2007 (PST))
  7. Please suggest any other part useful in this context.

Peer-to-Peer Program[edit | edit source]

Peer-to-peer projects between students in rich and poor countries can arouse interest and stimulate the construction and use of the NightReader. Why is studying during the evening at home normal in developed countries and next to impossible in poor countries? There is no need to accept this. Rich schools may take the initiative to change this inequality. A method that schools in developed nations may adopt is creating a NightReader peer-to-peer project. A school and its students in a rich country adopt a school and its students in a poor country. Students in rich countries have enough experience on the Internet to find and contact a school in a (poor) country. Then the students find out what is the real situation: is there a need for the NightReader? Does the other school have interest in such a project? If yes, what precisely are the local conditions? So the rich school students get to know what the reality is for their peers in that far away country. Together, with their teachers, they make a plan. It is impractical to make all the NightReaders and send them. It is better to provide teaching material for the other school.

Links related to the NightReader[edit | edit source]

  • Using LED's to light up the world:

Light up the World Foundation:

  • A question of Slashdot user to which "Nightreader" is the right answer:

  • Shortcomings in energy, including light to study

  • CirquitOnLine info on a 30V-3V current limiter for a LED

  • Do It Yourself Solar Energy

Their DIY Solar technique allows the construction of low cost pv panels to power radios, torches, etc. It can be used both by NGOs and those starting a small business. This is an example how it could work with the NightReader.

  • Basics of LED's

How they work, how to manage colours, why some LED-colors are cheap and others expensive. Many links to other sources of info on application of LED's.

  • About potential producters, the home-based workers

Home-based workers: neglected by policy-makers and labour organisers? Home workers are a flexible and cheap labour force and almost 80 percent are female. They are 'invisible' in the regular labour market and their interests and priorities are not at the forefront of political or labour organizations.

FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Keywords night reader, education, illumination, electric lighting, offline
SDG SDG10 Reduced inequalities
Authors Anna Goelnitz
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Ported from (original)
Derivatives Nacht-Lesegerät
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 8 pages link here
Impact 451 page views
Created November 4, 2006 by Anna Goelnitz
Modified December 13, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
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