Energy Efficiency solar water bottle light

Published on August 1st, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Lights Made of Plastic Bottles & Water

August 1st, 2011 by  

solar water bottle light

This is a pretty cool concept. An innovative solar lighting option developed in Brazil provides energy-efficient lights that probably won’t compete with the next LEDs and only really work in specific circumstances/roofs, but are super cool and have their own unique benefits.

The lights? Plastic bottles with water and a couple lids of bleach in them… and stuck through the roof.

The Brazilian engineer who came up with the idea did so in the midst of an energy blackout and crisis in 2002, as the first video below indicates. The 2-liter soda bottle lights are actually rated at 50-60 watts. Not bad. The lights have gotten the attention of normal folks and engineers alike, and have caught on a bit in some places. The idea has spread to the slums of Philippines, where every penny counts, through a program called “a liter of light.”

I was especially surprised to find out that there is no leakage and the bottles can stay there for years without any need for maintenance!  The water bottle lights are said to last for 5 years.

I imagine the natural light is good for the users of the buildings as well. Also, in my humble opinion, I think they look quite beautiful. The way the light shows through the water is really unique. I’m curious to see one in real life.

If you try this out, I’d love to hear about it and see pictures! Have you heard of any other places where these lights are being used, other than Brazil and the Philippines.

h/t sustainablog

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Taha

    it only works in sunlight only?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Right, it’s a skylight.

      A very cheap one.

  • Skippy

    next step is to have them work at night?

    • Bob_Wallace


  • Carlitos Jose Fuentes

    I was wondering why you need to put it in a whole. Why not just something that can be placed under the sun during daytime and then be brought inside during nightime.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It isn’t storing light. It’s just a cheap skylight.

      • Carlitos Jose Fuentes

        But it said that it will be able to illuminate during nighttime. Are you saying that it just get its illumination from the sky? It will not light at all if it won’t reflect from the sky?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I don’t see that in the text. In one of the videos do they talk about light at night?

          • Carlitos Jose Fuentes

            I am the one not reading well. I was actually thinking of duplicating this stuff if this will work at night and go for mass production but won’t be working. But anyhow, this study lead me to do further research of keeping the sun’s energy which will be illuminated by nightime. Much like a “glow in the dark” stuff but something that is much cheaper which may be brought at 2USD each.

          • Bob_Wallace

            2USD may be too low to be possible.

            Read up on micro-solar. It’s booming all around the globe. By buying a small system with time payments people are moving from candles and kerosene to LEDs and cell phone charging. While spending less money.

            Lots more programs – just google.

            And google a device called Gravity Light. They aren’t actually delivering yet but they’ve got an interesting idea for low cost light. (I like micro-solar better. But there’s room to try lots of stuff.)

          • Thanks a lot Bob. I will surely not stop until I will be able to get this project done. Its getting more interesting (for me) and getting more complex.

  • Angel_wing2601

    Very interesting article and very good idea!!! I am more of a store girl not a DIY project fan but I love Solar Powered Lights they are sweet and practical in the same time, here are my faves

  • Milksoakedcoockie

    This idea is by no means “new.” do a simple internet search for the phrase “deck prism” this is technology that has been used for centuries

    • Bob_Wallace

      Deck prisms, and skylights, are a bit pricey. This is a very low cost solution.

  • Lilian

    how do you make this thing we are always in the dark coz of loadshedding

  • Cian

    You said a Brazilian Engineer invented this… But other websites say it was MIT students… Who was it? In fact this is the only website I’ve seen that doesn’t mention MIT.

    • The whole original story I’ve seen (video above) features this Brazilian engineer. I wouldn’t be surprised if diff people discovered/’invented’ the same thing, but as far as I have seen, this guy was the first.

      • mikayla potes

        this is so sudden but i think im in love with you

  • Alex482009

    The main “minus” of these sun bulbs is that they do not produce nor accumulate light, they only disperse sunlight so they can be used only by the poorest in the countries with hot climate (no cielings in the houses, only thin roofs)…

  • Alex482009

    Hi guys! Are you all writing these comments too lazy to use your brains? Zachary told you about a program called “a liter of light.”. Does it really take too much intelligence just to google “a liter of light”??? The first search result gives you the answer to the question how it works and how to make such bulbs yourself: ! You can download detailed step-by-step manual showing it all or watch a film. What do you use your internet for? Just for chatting? Shame on you!

    • mikayla potes

      ummm dude some ppl actually like these stupid website

  • I am so excited about what you’re doing…especially the water-bottle light bulb…Thank you for spreading all such news!

  • Pingback: Low-Tech We Love: Solar Bulbs Powered by Bleach Light Up Homes in the Philippines()

  • Erin Schafer

    Alfredo Moser. His name is shown within the first 20 seconds of the first video.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the video link but it’s not showing for me.. ?

    I mention above that a Brazilian engineer developed it and, I think, he is featured in the first video. I have not been able to find his name anywhere. If you can just provide it for me (since you seem to know), I’m happy to include it.

  • Santosh gurung

    i want to know how to make this plastic bottel light . i hope you can give me some ideas thank you .

  • Pingback: Solar Bottle Bulb (Part II) | CleanTechnica()

  • Gunasekar C Rajaratnam

    This is another example of the same. They add bleach to the water in the plastic bottles.

    • yeah i know that but am looking to how to make it works for 24 hours= i mean that the solar plastic bulb that works on night time

  • jam

    i want to know how to make this thing because i have plan to make some of this and give to our fellowmen in remote areas. hope you can give me some ideas= aside from plastic bottles and water what other ingredients= thanks in advance

    • Anonymous

      All i can tell you about it is what i put in the piece above 😀

      Perhaps you can find contact info for one of the organizations helping to spread this around?

  • jam

    great ideas= can you tell me how to make this?. what we need to make this solar light= thanks

    • Anonymous

      All i can tell you about it is what i put in the piece above 😀

      Perhaps you can find contact info for one of the organizations helping to spread this around?

  • Anonymous

    This is an interesting concept, they would be great for garden sheds etc. It would be nice if someone would explain how to installed them in a roof, and the process of making them weather proof.

    • Anonymous

      The second video sort of shows how, but yeah, something more detailed would be helpful

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