Innovating the “iHarvey” – a small, safe and friendly energy harvester that converts heat into basic usable electricity for lighting, and USB charging.
Johannesburg, South Africa (13 July 2020) – In a small aircraft hangar based in Lanseria, Gauteng, Allan Goldberg, Sarah Custodio and the late Paul Van Lingen worked on developing a safe, efficient and innovative way for off-grid and low income bearing households to use paraffin to create electricity.
The Trio worked for years developing the device, known as the “iHarvey” – a small, safe and friendly energy harvester that converts heat from burning paraffin, into basic usable electricity for lighting, and USB charging. The device was developed with the user in mind – typically a family with minimal income, using paraffin for cooking and lighting, and no quick or safe access to a USB charging facility. They had also found that a huge number of households burn down due to poorly built lanterns, or open flame candles – to which the iHarvey has been designed in a way that specifically keeps the user safe at all times.
After extensive testing and with the help of the University of Johannesburg, the device was found to reduced emissions by 83%, produce 0.00 ppm of Carbon Monoxide and reduced the soot from 40 mg/m3 down to 0.01 mg/m3 from a standard paraffin lantern, whilst running for 29 hours on a single litre of fuel, running almost completely silently. The device provides 18 times the light of a single paraffin lantern, whilst allowing USB devices to be charged simultaneously. The company believes this small change will allow students across to have access to clean, efficient lighting and allow devices such as tablets, e-books and cell phones to be charged and used as a means to bridge the technology gap between socioeconomic groups.
Sarah, the current financial director, said:
“Our story is one of the heart brought to life by science. It all began in 2011, we were involved in a project that would introduce tablets as a replacement to textbooks for children in schools across South Africa. We soon encountered the very real and hard reality that the majority of these children do not have access to electricity and would not be able to charge these devices…
While all of this had been going on, Allan Goldberg, our founder and the brains of the operation, had been playing around with thermoelectric power generating modules.
The cogs really got turning when this thought sparked (no pun intended) into a question, an idea – could we produce enough useable electricity using the currently used heat sources of the off-grid community without modifying said heat sources?
That’s when Alan decided to approach Paul van Lingen with his idea. Paul immediately suggested that we adapt a paraffin lamp to be the heat source.
After 18 prototypes and variations on the theme, we decided to design our own wick based burner as the heat losses incurred in the standard wick holder and chimney were too great to allow us to produce useable electricity.
Paul’s experience in control of combustion came into play and he produced a burner of exceptional quality which reduced emissions by 83%, and the soot from 40 mg/m3 down to 0.01 mg/m3. And thus iHarvey® was born!
This burner not only provided the sufficient amount of heat, due to the optimisation of the burn for heat, rather than a yellow flame for light as is standard in a normal paraffin lantern. The TEG structure and electronics were optimised to give us what we have today which is probably one of the most fuel-efficient power generators on the market.
In December 2012, prototypes were made to allow for testing and to prove to investors that this project could change the world. The design was well-received, and the unit you see today is almost exactly the same as the original design, except for a few slight aesthetic changes.
iHarvey® is just the beginning and our promise to you is to never stop exploring and developing innovative and affordable ways to bring basic electricity and modern accessories to those who need it.”
You can find out more about the innovative device via their website here.