You know what makes us happy? When people find brilliant new uses for already existing technologies and designs. Apparently Toyota feels the same way. For their recent Ideas for Good challenge, Toyota asked people to come up with new uses for five of their most innovative automotive technologies. One of the winning ideas came from Tim Witmer, who concocted the idea to use the Prius's solar power ventilation system to create a clean air system for homes in developing countries where people still cook over open fires indoors. Last weekend during Toyota's Ideas for Good rapid prototyping in Pittsburgh, Witmer worked with Deeplocal engineers to create a working prototype of the system. They went the whole nine yards, building a hut and even cooking kebabs! Hit the jump to see the step by step process and learn more about the system.
more than 2 million people die every year because of indoor air pollution. Witmer wanted to use the Prius technology to help improve the air quality for people living and cooking in small huts. Here, CMU Robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh, Deeplocal engineer Patrick Miller, and inventor Tim Witmer (left to right) discuss the project.
Using a solar panel that was stripped from a Prius, Deeplocal engineer Patrick Miller created ventilation system that can be adapted to different homes, climates, and cultures while still being inexpensive to manufacture.
The system built by Miller used an expandable metal dryer tube and hood that fit inside a small plywood hut that they built.
This is the fan that the system used, but the team made it clear that the materials could be easily swapped for pieces that made more sense for different types of dwellings in developing countries. The goal is for the system to meet the needs of a culture, not change them.
The solar panel on the Prius is a Kyocera solar panel that can generate up to 56 watts of energy. That big of a panel is unnecessary and too expensive to use for powering a small system in a hut, so Carnegie Mellon University professor Illah Nourbakhsh worked with the Pure Air team to determine exactly how small of a panel would work. Using dark film, the team blocked sunlight from the panel and tested how long it took for the fan to get up to full speed.
At full power, it took the fan two seconds to blow up a garbage bag. Using just 12 percent of the power, the fan still only took 4 seconds, meaning that a 7 watt solar panel would do the same job as the 56 watt panel.
The team custom built a plywood hut to test the ventilation system.
Up goes the roof!
The finished hut, with the solar panel on top. The real fun started when the team actually began using their ventilation system and testing the effects it had on the hut's air quality.
To make the situation as real as possible, Nourbakhsh whipped up a batch of traditional Middle Eastern kebabs for Witmer to cook inside the hut.
Without the vent over the fire, the air sensors in the hut maxed out at 24,000 parts per million -- an extremely high amount of pollution for such a small space. Once they placed the vent over the fire, the number dropped by half in less than five minutes, meaning that the ventilation system really does make a life saving difference.