LEDs Woven Into Textiles

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Weavers in the San Andreas region of the Sierra Madre, Mexico, are incorporating high-brightness LEDs into textiles using traditional backstrap looms and sewing techniques as part of a pilot program for The Sierra Portable Light Project, featured in "Design for the Other 90%, A Revolution in Design," an exhibition on view through Sept. 23 at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City.
Designer/manufacturer: Portable Light Team, KVA MATx (United States, 2006). Woven aluminum textile, recyclable PET, flexible photovoltaics, semiconductors, flexible wireways. Traditional integrated Portable Light textiles, designer/manufacturer: Estella Hernandez, Huichol weaver, and family (United States and Mexico, 2006). Acrylic yarn or natural wool, flexible semiconductor technologies. In use in: Mexico and Australia (pilot programs). (Photo courtesy Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum)
"'Design for the Other 90%' explores the variety of affordable and socially responsible objects designed for the more than five billion people across the globe (90 percent of world’s total population of 6.5 billion) who often lack the means to purchase even the most basic goods," the museum said in a statement.

Organized by curator Cynthia E. Smith, along with an eight-member advisory council, the exhibition is divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health and sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.
Sierra portable light mat. Designer/manufacturer: Portable Light Team, KVA MATx (Photo: Stanford Richins, courtesy Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum) 
“Ninety-five percent of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers,” said Paul Polak, president of International Development Enterprises and a member of the exhibition’s advisory council. “Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90 percent."

The exhibition features more than 30 works that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, actually saving lives. Among the objects in the exhibition are the pot-in-pot cooler, a storage container that doubles the amount of crops saved while extending their shelf life; the Big Boda load-carrying bicycle, which can easily carry hundreds of pounds of cargo or two additional passengers at a substantially lower cost than other forms of human-powered utility vehicles; MoneyMaker pumps, which families can use to irrigate fruits and vegetables during the dry season, allowing greater crop yields year-round; and Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child project, an effort to provide inexpensive laptop computers to be used as educational tools for children.

"Traditional integrated Portable Light textiles" combine high-brightness LEDs from pedestrian walk signals, water-resistant tactile switches from dishwashers and rechargeable batteries from the cell-phone industry, all acquired from consumer appliances and via standard technologies. The portable system can provide access to light and power when needed. The Mexican weavers -- Huichol women of North Central Mexico, descendents of the Aztecs and related to their Uto-Aztecan speaking cousin, the Hopi of Arizona -- shape the light to their particular needs, using the textile surfaces to provide direct, reflected or diffuse lighting as needed for cottage-based industries such as community tortillerías, sandal making, repair work, weaving and beading.

Also on view is furniture recycled from hurricane debris and produced by the Katrina Furniture Project and examples of shelters used throughout the world, including Global Village shelters, which are used as temporary homes and rural clinics; Mad Housers huts, which are built by volunteers to house the homeless; the Day Labor Station, a mobile worker center; and the Seventh Ward shade structure, which provides a gathering place for planning reconstruction efforts while the Porch Cultural Center in New Orleans is being rebuilt.

The exhibition also includes a garden with a low-cost drip irrigation system, which reduces water use by 30 to 70 percent and increases yields by more than 50 percent by extending the growing season, improving crop quality and cultivating high-value, marketable crops.

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Published: May 2007
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
backstrap loomsConsumerCooper-HewittDesign for the Other 90%Light SourcesMexicoNews & FeaturesphotonicsSan AndreasSierra MadreSierra Portable Light ProjecttextilesLEDs

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