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Jaundice in newborns, if untreated, can lead to brain damage or death. Fortunately there’s an easy treatment, called phototherapy, which just means exposing the baby’s skin to blue light with a wavelength of about 458 nm in sufficient amounts. This changes the excess bilirubin (the yellow chemical that causes jaundice) into a slightly different chemical that the baby’s body can eliminate much more easily, until their liver matures enough to take over the job itself.

Commercial “bililights” for jaundice phototherapy are too expensive for most of the world, so Tim Z. Falconer designed a DIY version that uses commodity superbright LEDs and is makeable for $150 at most. Because the bililights need to be calibrated for use, Tim also designed a calibration device in inexpensive, kit form. The first version of Tim’s open-source devices began saving babies’ lives last August in the Congo, and since then, his Luma League designs have also been locally assembled and put to use in Haiti, Guatemala, and (just this past week), Nepal, via local partner Nyaya Health.

With his kits and open source designs, Tim wants to facilitate local entrepreneurship and expertise — an approach that contrasts with that of companies such as Green Light Planet, who mass-manufacture inexpensive finished devices for centralized distribution and sale to the developing world.

Tim and the Luma League will be exhibiting at Maker Faire Bay Area this May 19-20, where Tim plans to let people assemble strings of LED’s for actual bili lights that will be used where needed.

Luma League: http://lumaleague.org

paul spinrad

Paul Spinrad

I’m a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, editor (Wired, MAKE), maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco and hatches schemes at investian.com.


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Comments

  1. abrady says:

    reminds me of a baby warmer for premature babies that was realy cheap to make and maybe it won some college design major contest for solutions that solved third world problems or something. I think it was basically you would like heat up a rock or a brick or something with some heat source then put that into a fleece sleeping bag type thing and was basically operating likea baby incubator minus the billirubin lights and oxygen. BUt tons cheaper than a Modern hospital’s baby incubator. Combine this light with a baby warmer like that ( don’t need the bili ight constantly I think. so woudl take them out to get the light then put htem back in the sleeping bag device. bascially then you have a thrid world version of a NICU if you could also find a cheap portable oxygen concentrator device like the ones used by COPD patients that don’t want to lug around a large heavy tank or that have to fly on commercial airplane since they won’t alow the oxygen tanks onboard anymore. What surprises me something like this isn’t already funded by Gates foundation or some similar organization.
    Actually now I think of the actual winner of that contest that year was a water wheel device to help make transporting water from water source back to a persons home much easier, especially for the women and children who may have carried large containers on their heads as they walked back and forth. It was bascially a large plastic drum of water but in the shape of a off road like wheel that had a lawn mower like handle attached so even a small child could push pull it several miles bringing back enough water for an entire family.

  2. This is real innovative stuff! There’s lots of jaundice devices out there, and there are lots of devices for jaundice for developing countries. What I love about this is the price point, the open hardware aspect, and the intention to allow locals to make one for themselves. Big fan, thanks for posting!

  3. […] bili blankets and light meters for testing and calibration. The project has been featured at a Maker Faire event, and the developer hopes to make the affordable technology available to hospitals and healthcare […]

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