Spark shaker harvests kinetic energy for the developing world


July 4, 2014

Spark is a shaker that produces kinetic energy to power lights and charge mobiles in rural communities

Spark is a shaker that produces kinetic energy to power lights and charge mobiles in rural communities

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In 15 years as a percussionist with British electronica band Faithless, Sudha Kheterpal has spent countless nights energetically bashing away on cymbals, snares and high-hats. This has inspired her to wonder how the power of music could be extended beyond the flailing arms and shaking hips in the crowd. She has now teamed up with designers and engineers to develop Spark, a shaker that harnesses kinetic energy with the aim of bringing power to the developing world.

According to the World Bank, around 70 percent of Africans are not connected to a power grid, relying on kerosene lanterns and candles for lighting. Spark is designed to offer not just an alternative to these unreliable lighting solutions, but better connect residents of rural regions with medical, education and banking services through mobile charging capabilities.

The Spark works in a similar way to other electricity generators like Brother's Vibration Energy Cell and the nPower PEG. Along with beads for making the music, Spark houses a magnet that moves through a copper coil as the instrument is shaken, creating a current and charging the battery. According to Kheterpal, 12 minutes of jamming can produce enough electricity to run an external USB light for one hour.

Even in the hands of the most energetic movers and shakers, this is hardly going to power entire communities. It is hoped, however, that Spark can make small, but important differences. Kheterpal has been testing prototypes with communities in Kenya and anticipates applications such as guiding school kids home in the dark and providing light for night time reading.

She has taken to Kickstarter to further develop the prototype and scale up production of Spark. With a goal of £50,000 (around US$85,000), Kheterpal is aiming to raise enough funds to improve the materials and increase the power capacity, add a mobile phone charging feature and distribute Spark to 1,000 Kenyan homes. She also hopes to develop educational assembly kits whereby children studying science, music and engineering can build the instruments themselves to learn about the technology.

Pledges of £150 (US$260) will have one of the energy-generating musical instruments headed your way, provided the campaign runs as planned. Delivery is slated for March 2015.

Source: Kickstarter

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Siphoning the money away with these silly things makes it harder to build village level power systems that do more than just replace a few lamps.


$260 could buy a solar panel with far more generating capacity, and small power bank batteries can be added dirt cheap.


why are we so hell-bent on changing the way these people live? what makes a tiny USB lamp better than candles?

of course, i would prefer to rely on a USB lamp because i live in a technology-based, complicated western society. if i lived in a hunter/gatherer or agriculture based society, making candles would probably be the most enjoyable part of my day.

i'll go ahead and answer my opening question. we want to change the way these people live so we can make money off them. someone reading this probably has altruistic motives, but they were probably brain-washed into that altruism by some entity that wants to make money off developing the 3rd world.

we need a Prime Directive.

Enlightened Wookie

Surely solar powered LEDs are a cheaper option? No effort is required to produce electricity, just the sun. Quite a lot of that in Africa or wherever.

Also there is a gravity operated light, which is relatively cheap to produce, and a lot more effective than this shaker device. Even a bike can generate enough energy to light up LEDs.


Why bother, billions, if not trillions dollars, and countless lives have been spent on that country and others in Africa and the situation hasn't changed. They are still a "developing" nation.

S Michael

@ Enlightened Wookie First there is nothing noble or glorious about living in poverty. The candles that they would make are made from fat that has many more uses than there is fat to go around. Mostly they use kerosene lamps.

@ S Michael The trick is getting the money past the ruling classes "Swiss" bank accounts to the people you want to help


£150 (US$260)—for THAT?

I think Ms. Kheterpal's heart is certainly in the right place, but a £150 (US$260) toy in the hands of (let's face it) capricious children is hardly a reliable energy source. And I am certain the adults have much more urgent needs for their arms than playing a shaker.

Sorry, just silly, frivolous—AND expensive.

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