The LED lights are on for Yangon's Ko Pyone Cho
By Juliet Shwe Gaung
[Photo: Myanmar Times
- Ko Pyone Cho enjoys his tea beside the ingenious LED lighting system in his shack in Insein township.]
THE room may not be brightly lit, but the noodle seller can do his work. He’s saving the money he would otherwise spend on a generator or candles, and the technology he uses is as green as they come.
Ko Pyone Cho, 35, owns and runs a small roadside noodle shop in Insein township, where he also lives. He is saving money by using biomass to power five light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, instead of buying and burning candles.
He has the right to tap into the diesel generator collectively owned by residents in his quarter, which would enable him to power a 4-foot-long fluorescent light, but resents that cost. Ko Pyone Cho doesn’t see why he should pay the K2500 required, especially when the raw materials needed for his biomass light are readily available.
The secret to powering the five LEDs, modest though they are, is fascinating: It’s a mixture of chemistry and backyard mechanics.
And it works.
The power is produced mixing together 2 viss each of cow dung and salt (1 viss equals 1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds). The mixture is then poured into five 1-litre plastic bottles with the tops cut off. He then sinks one old, but not yet dead, battery into each bottle and wires them all together, positive to negative. This ‘battery’ is then connected with the five LED bulbs, stuck into an old compact disc, which then immediately light up.
The main cost to Ko Pyone Cho in this procedure is the salt, which is normally about K300 a viss but has risen to K500. He must occasionally buy new LEDs, at K50 per bulb, and wiring.
The batteries, water bottles and CD are items that he would normally throw away, but instead diverts to a good cause.
Ko Pyone Cho says the lighting, which he judges quite sufficient for his purposes, will last for about six months even if used most evenings until midnight.
“I usually have to sprinkle salt into the mixture once every 10 days. It’s a kind of maintenance to enhance the energy. If I don’t continue sprinkling, it doesn’t light up as much as it should,” said Ko Pyone Cho.
Ko Pyone Cho says the unusual device provides light to his noodle stall and saves him money that he would normally have to spend on candles.
“I started using it as a substitute for candles, which normally cost about K500 for a packet of six. I view this as an unnecessary cost,” he said. The price of candles has now stabilised after rising sharply in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
Ko Pyone Cho, who lives with his mother, says the lighting is sufficient for the two of them. Though it is not strong enough to read by, it is safer, cheaper and, he feels, more pleasing than candlelight.
He learned about biomass technology in Twante township, a rural part of the Ayeyarwady Division, where it is widely used. “The biomass lighting really helps me prepare noodles for the next day from 6 to around 9pm, and the next morning from 4am until sunrise” said Ko Pyone Cho, who sells around seven viss of noodles on weekdays and 10 viss on Saturdays. A noodle seller for 20 years, he estimates that biomass lighting saves him about K200 a day.
The idea to use biomass came after a visit to his relatives in Aut Su village in Pathein town, where he studied the fixing procedure and demonstrated it back in his house.
He said that fishery sectors, biomass is used more seriously for a wider variety of purposes.
“Even within our quarter, there is only one person who uses biomass. Maybe most people don’t know the procedure. But the light is so satisfying I think it’s worth the little extra effort involved in preparing the mixture” said Ko Pyone Cho.