One of the challenges facing South Africa, and the world, is to drastically reduce energy consumption, the cost of producing it and to use alternative sources of energy. That’s where Shalton Mothwa wants to make a difference. He’s a qualified nuclear physicist, which in itself is quite an achievement, but for Shalton that’s just the beginning. He’s also an entrepreneur that’s committed to changing the way we use energy, and in how it can be harnessed from very untraditional sources.
A few days ago Shalton took part in the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, a workshop that aims to inspire young South African entrepreneurs to collaborate, be creative and share their ideas for a brighter South African future. There he presented his project: the AEON Power Bag.
Mothwa’s AEON Power Bag is a laptop bag that will be able to charge mobile devices by farming the energy from surrounding wifi and telecommunication signals. He says, “It’s about convenience and freedom. You’ll be able to do your thing on mobile devices without having to power your stuff.”
Because the bag draws its charge from wifi signals and cellular towers, Shalton is also hopeful that it will go long way to empowering young children and students in rural areas, allowing them the freedom to connect with learning websites without having to worry about powering their devices. Because there more and more zero-rated (data-cost free) resources being made available to learners across the country, finding enough juice to power their connections is one of the last remaining major barriers to accessing information.
It’s a ground-breaking idea that could revolutionise the way people charge their devices while out and about. But it’s not the onlysmart energy concept that Shalton is involved in, either. His company Epoch Microchips is also developing a new type of energy efficient light too – an LED hybrid lamp that’s powered by a combination of solar energy, radio frequency energy from telecommunications towers and electricity from the grid. The light consumes less than 65% of the energy of the light bulbs recently recommended by Eskom, and the lamp’s cover is made of 85% recycled material, which makes it eco-friendly. It’s powered remotely and wirelessly so remote rural areas and informal settlements will have access to lights regardless of load-shedding or infrastructure issues.
The 28-year-old scientific entrepreneur, who hails the North West Province, says he is one month away from finalising the prototype of the AEON Laptop Bag, but will still need R900 000 in funding before we’ll see this product on the shelves. Given the excitement the AEON Bag is generating around the world, one can only hope this investment support isn’t too far away. Perhaps Elon Musk will recognise a kindred spirit and give Shalton’s project a welcome kickstart?