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Solar Bottle Lights: Transforming Plastic Bottle Waste to Light Bulbs

Myra Valenzuela's picture

Source of photo:’s surprising how simple the design of a solar bottle light is – take an empty plastic bottle, fill it with mineral water and a few drops of bleach, and cement it halfway through a small metal roof sheet (the kind used as roofs in Manila’s slum areas). Then cut out a small piece of the actual roof, place the sheet with the bottle on top of the hole, cement any cracks, and voilà! Let there be light.

This initiative, a project designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and implemented by MyShelter Foundation, is already transforming lives of low-income people in the Philippines.

Aside from giving light, it reduces the risk of fire-related incidents involving faulty electrical connections, which are rampant in informal settlements like slum areas. MyShelter Foundation’s vision through “Isang Litrong Liwanag” (A Liter of Light) project is to brighten one million homes in the Philippines by 2012 with the help of various partners and volunteers.

Here at the Development Marketplace, we love innovative technologies like this: transformative, affordable, eco-friendly, and scalable. Check out their video below:

Alfredo Moser is the inventor of the solar bottle bulb, a Brazilian engineer who improvised the device to light his workshop in 2002 when his neighborhood in Sao Paolo, Brazil was suffering through a long cut in electric power. Soon, his neighbors followed suit. (source:


Submitted by Jonathan Davidar on
Excellent post, and what a brilliant example of turning waste to wealth and lighting the world in the same breath. This should be showcased in more decision-making fora across the developing world to bring light to millions. Maybe this will inspire someone to create a similar bulb that works at night too!

Impressive video, thanks for sharing. I've learned more here.

Submitted by Myra on
@ Jonathan Davidar and Solar Lights: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post and video. I believe MyShelter Foundation is taking this idea to India as well. @ TV Somanathan: No, it doesn't work at night - it's powered by the sun, but it provides much-needed light during the day.

Submitted by T.V. Somanathan on
Thanks. I asked only because there was a reference to reducing risks from electric wires.

Submitted by Myra on
Some of the houses in these dwellings do use regular (electric-powered) lights, but the solar bottle lights reduce their use of this during the daytime hours.

Submitted by Jonathan Davidar on
Myra, thanks for the update on the next steps in India. I would love to see more posts/updates like this and videos that clearly demonstrate the implementation and benefits of such technologies.

Submitted by lila239 on
Why do we have to use mineral water? Will it affect the quality of the light if ordinary tap water is used?

Submitted by Myra on
@Lila239 - I believe bleach and clean mineral water are used to preserve the life of the solar bottle and prevent the growth of fungi/algae for up to 5 years.

Submitted by joenifer monteb... on

i think Clarity of water is of great value during the refraction of light.

Submitted by Mubbashir on
i believe this system works on the principle of reflection in the presence of sun, let me know if i am wrong, is this system viable to be used at night??

Submitted by Myra on
@Mubbashir - yes, this system works only during daylight hours because it depends on the sun. However, as you can see in the video, the houses in the slum areas are still very dark during the day due to lack of windows and/or electricity.

Submitted by Margaret on
This is really great. Congs to the inventors. If it works at night, it would be perfect for my countrymen (Uganda) who live in areas that do not access electricity. Thanks for the innovation.

Submitted by Ben Ganesha on
To make this design also provide some illumination at night, you could consider adding a photoluminescent chemical to the water or the outside of the bottle. One safe and relatively cheap compound, strontium aluminate, can deliver up to 10 hours of luminescence after exposure to light. Also, I wonder if soft drink companies would be amenable to using a clear platic bottle top, or make other minor improvements to the utility or efficiency of the concept? This could include modifying the shape of the bottle to reduce the need for sealants or optimising the light throughput.

Submitted by gina mampusti on

your comment was really a great idea, but have you try it your self? does it works,I am really interested because i know a lot of people from oriental mindoro philippines that up to present thier places does not have electricity yet they are just using the gass or oil lamp

Submitted by Prashant on
Is the Chlorine different from Liquid Bleach?? Because the Chlorine solution is used to purify the water and in the video, its been said that we have to add bleach to the purified water. So just a bit confused, plz Help

Submitted by ravi thakur on

its brilliant..
plz say which type of liquid bleach are used?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Lamps are a big part of our everyday life. Whether you are at home chilling and reading a good book or at your office looking over some papers, lamps make.recycled glassware

Submitted by devesh singh on
Overall Concept was good only the problem was it need clean water for bright light we cant use waste water mostly the peoples living in villages they can use adopt your idea because they are leaving in such type of homes where roof having chances to fix the bottle light. also in villages their water and electricity both are major problems due to elctricity problem they like your idea but due to problem with water they i think we need to think more over the concept....

Just wondered what you thought about his "Bottled Sunshine" image:

Submitted by James Elliott on

Credit please to the inventor of this "light bulb", Alfredo Moser - an engineer from Brazil.

Submitted by Dencio on

Whoever might be the originator of the solar bottle light bulb, Filipino or Brazilian, what matters is that it has come to be. Such alternative solar lighting contraption is sure to provide cheap and reliable illumination to homes, particularly those that belong to underprivileged countries of the world.

Submitted by prashant on

hi sir can i use bleaching powder.....and what about contity ... also is it work at night.... plz help... bcoz i dont get bleaching liquid anywhere....

Submitted by Amit Yadav on

Sir, I would like to know that how we can modify the bottle to produce light after daylight. I found some information that we need to fix a solar panel at the top of the bottle. but I dont know how we can do this. If you can help me to do this, then We will be at the top of this project.

Submitted by Ernesto on

Indeed, solar bottle lights are bound to be of great help to many underprivileged communities in Asia and the rest of the world. Governments should really exert much effort to propagate the immense benefits of these simple yet reliable solar lighting fixtures.

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