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NI software key in design of solar-powered lantern

NI software key in design of solar-powered lantern
The K-Light is a solar-powered, rechargeable lantern that provides an environmentally friendly, economical and safe alternative to fuel-based lighting. Key in the design were Multisim and Ultiboard software from NI

Fuel-based lighting is inefficient and requires continual replenishment. Also, it can be dangerous to operate with the potential for burns and fuel spills, contributions to indoor air pollution, and the emission of millions of tons of greenhouse gases annually. On the other hand, battery-powered devices generally require replacement batteries to continue functionality, resulting in additional costs and environmental impact.

Pan's Innovative Science and Technology (PiSAT) has created a more efficient lighting system by using solar energy to develop a solar-powered rechargeable lantern - the K-Light. The device is comprised of 16 energy-efficient LEDs, a rechargeable 7.2V, 1.6Ahr NiMH battery, and a 1.5W solar panel. The entire product meets the hazardous substances (RoHS) compliance restriction standards and is waterproof, easily portable, and safe to operate. 

The lantern operates as a flashlight and provides 10 to 20 hours of light per charge, depending on setting (high or low). As a daily source of light, PiSAT designed the K-Light to last ten years. For recreational purposes, it is a lifetime light. This level of longevity, flexibility, and safety lends itself to being a long-term lighting solution, particularly in areas with developing power infrastructure.

Designing the K-Light
The lead engineer had previous experience using the NI Circuit Design Suite, which includes the Multisim circuit design and simulation environment and Ultiboard layout. The ease of use and flexibility of this environment was useful in developing the circuitry needed to power the solar lantern. To create an efficient light source, PiSAT used NI design tools to quickly capture, simulate, and layout the printed circuit board (PCB) that interfaces to energy-efficient LEDs.

The company's goal was to design an energy-efficient light source for individuals without access to a clean, affordable, and rugged power source. Because the success of the K-Light project is directly driven by the efficiency and reliability of the underlying lantern circuitry, PiSAT used the NI Circuit Design Suite to effectively create a production-ready PCB from a conceptual circuit.

In the Multisim environment, PiSAT easily captured the conceptual circuit and simulated its performance to characterize the behaviour of the circuit through multiple improvement and optimization iterations without having to physically prototype the PCB. This saved time and helped avoid unnecessary prototype iterations during the circuit validation and optimization process. We imported the completed schematic into Ultiboard for the PCB design layout.

The fully integrated circuit design suite that was simple and intuitive to use helped ensure the success of the K-Light project. The first prototype PCB had the ability to identify and resolve performance issues through simulation, pass performance testing, and enter production. Today, individuals in Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda have a reliable, environmentally friendly, and safe lighting solution with the K-Light solar rechargeable lantern.

The success of the K-Light lantern project has opened up new opportunities for improving day-to-day tasks with solar energy. For example, 16,000 health workers with Phones for Health, are set to receive the 

K-Light and K-Light cell phone charger, while the Koinonia Foundation uses the K-Light as the basis for its Beacon Program, which encourages economic growth and poverty reduction by helping unemployed mothers begin sustainable businesses.
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