Low Tech Inventions for Common Folk

At a time, when new technology is the buzzword, when esoteric terms like nanotechnology – which everyone is in awe of, but very few really comprehend – some Indians are creating products of beautiful simplicity. Here are three of the best.

Eco-friendly Train Toilet

Toilets in Indian trains are so terrifying that many fastiduous passengers don’t drink or eat anything during the entire journey; and some diehards even take pills to induce constipation. Normal train toilets, especially in cattle class, have a very rudimentary disposal system – just a hole in the floor. Hence, it is not uncommon to stand on the platform, trying desperately to avoid the sight of human droppings on the tracks.

T S Seshadri of Hyderabad has a solution. He has designed what he calls a closed toilet system for trains. This eco-friendly toilet does not allow the refuse to fall on the tracks. Instead, it is collected in a retention tank which is fixed below the railway coach floor. The capacity of the retention tank is 900 litres, which is twice the capacity of the overhead water tank provided by the railways in every toilet. The retention tank is provided with a small vent at the top of the coach so that the gases generated in the tank escape into the atmosphere. This reduces the smell. The system requires the fitting of an underground drainage facility at stations to discharge the wastes..

In March this year, the Railway Board will decide if it wants the eco-friendly train toilet that costs about $800 apiece.

Bicycle-powered cell phone charger

Prem Singh Saini dropped out of school in the eighth grade, but his fascination for electronic equipment led him to read magazines and learn about circuits. Two years ago, the 29-year-old developed a bicycle operated cell phone charger. In a country where several villages now have cell phones but uncertain electricity supply, Saini’s cycle charger may have a meaningful run.

His device works on the principle of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. It charges the cell phone battery by using a conventional bicycle. The unit consists of a bicycle, dynamo, 6-volt DC battery, switching unit and a holder. By operating the bicycle, the rear wheel rotates and the dynamo is activated. The electrical charge thus generated is stored in a 6-volt battery. The battery is connected to a switching unit, which has three adaptors to charge various cell phones. This battery is then used to charge the cell phones. It can charge up to five cell phones at a time.

Solar Charger for Laptops

The solar laptop charger developed by Faridabad’s Central Electronics Limited (CEL), a government enterprise, has an unwieldy size when stretched but it is foldable and can be easily carried in a laptop bag. The module is mounted on scaffolding made up of foldable aluminum rods.

The scaffolding, which unfolds into a crude shell, can be placed on a plain surface facing the sun to start the charging. The silicon solar cells start producing a direct current as soon as the charger is exposed to sunlight. All you need to do is take the plug of the module and insert it in the charging socket of the laptop computer.

The above inventions are not likely to win any technology awards or rate a mention in science magazines. But they have the potential to provide low-cost solutions to millions of ordinary people who, often, would have no other alternative.

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