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Harvard's engineering school receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant
Date:4/28/2011

Seattle, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. April 28, 2011 A project to use dirt-powered batteries to charge cell phones in Africa won a $100,000 grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today.

Led by Aviva Presser Aiden '09 (Ph.D.), an affiliate of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) who is now a student at Harvard Medical School, the aim is to develop a Microbial Fuel Cell-based charger that could be readily and cheaply assembled out of basic components to increase access to health care via mobile applications in the developing world. The project, hosted by the Laboratory-at-Large at Harvard, will have an initial field-test site in sub-Saharan Africa.

This grant was made under the call for Gates Grand Challenges Exploration Grant (CGE) proposals to "Create Low-Cost Cell Phone-Based Applications for Priority Global Health Conditions."

GCE funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how to solve persistent global health and development challenges. Aiden's project is one of over 85 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 grants.

Cell phones are becoming a ubiquitous and increasingly crucial part of the health care infrastructure of the developing world. The devices provide a critical gateway to health information and offer contact with physicians who cannot reach remote locations.

For instance, even in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 500 million people lack power in their homes, 22 percent of households have cell phones. Keeping the devices charged, however, can be a challenge.

"For households lacking power in Sub-Saharan Africa, recharging a cell phone battery often means a long, possibly multi-hour walk to a charging station, where recharges cost between 50 cents and a dollar," says Aiden. "Because the per-capita income is several hundred dollars per year, this is a significant cost. Existing solutions for charging cell phones in off-grid are
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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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