Rural celly charger

Computers & Mobile Energy & Sustainability Science
Rural celly charger

Image from Women of Uganda Network
The Women of Uganda Network has an interesting story of a woman who got scammed at a cell phone charging business.

Mrs. Muyonjo is a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She used to ride her bicycle for twenty miles in order to come to the nearest small town with electricity to charge her mobile phone battery. Not any more.

One day, she fell victim to unscrupulous individuals. “I will never give my telephone to the village battery chargers again. I gave them my new phone for charging, and they changed my battery and instead returned to me an old battery whose battery life can only last for one day.” Unable to find the money or time to charge the battery daily, she decided to find an alternative charging solution. “I looked at what was readily available to me and came up with my own charger. I devised this method to enable me charge my battery every day. It works perfectly.”

via Treehugger

In Uganda, as in many other countries, cell phone use has become huge. Access to charging technologies, however is not so huge.

The solution Mrs. Muyonjo came up with was pretty good for a first iteration. Long term, she and her neighbors would probably be happier with a device that has a voltage regulator, ability to sense a complete charge, and of course, a renewable energy source. Could such a device be made from electrojunk? Make: Online readers, what can we come up with? Bring out your ideas for charging circuits, working and theoretical and let us know in the comments and MAKE Flickr pool.

22 thoughts on “Rural celly charger

  1. Pete Marchetto says:

    How about connecting a joule-thief circuit (DC-DC upconverter) to a cap on one side and a small solar cell (like the ones in calculators) on the other? You pull off of the cap to the cell phone directly. If I remember correctly, most cell phones have internal Vregs between the battery and the rest of the circuitry, so that takes care of your OV protection. I’ll see if I can build this, and then get back to you.

    1. says:

      A year later, I’m coming across this to attempt something like this. In the detail photo of the joule thief circuit on Flickr, it appears that the heart of it is a transistor, but I’m not finding the oscillator component. I wish I could see more detail.

      The next step would be to build in some kind of Over Voltage regulator. As you know, the cell phone is not mobile when it’s charging via the sun. My goal would be to make a home charging unit where the spare batter would be charging.
      Could that be done with some ease that it could be replicated? I’m just a “follow the instructions” guy, which is why I wish I could see more detail in the circuit.

      Pointers are appreciated, thanx, sam

  2. Randall Flagg says:

    Bicycle? She rode a bike twenty miles? She could have charged her phone with an electromotive generator “stationary biking” it with the same amount of energy, and less money.

    1. AndyL says:

      Sure … If she *HAD* a bike generator! But why would she?

      A bicycle is an important transportation tool. A stationary bicycle is not.

      Your question is like asking someone why they have a car instead of a generator!

      1. John Stoner says:

        They’re not mutually exclusive. A roller, a stand, and a generator, and you can generate power without disabling your bike.

        That’s actually a better idea than my first thought when I saw the picture, which was of one of those flashlights with the magnet and inductance coil where you give it a shake and it gives you light for a short while. She has a bike already, she could make a stand for it. If she can get her hands on some magnets (maybe a car alternator) she could make a bike generator and power it that way.

        Though if she has all that she could probably make a wind turbine instead. Wonder how windy it is in Uganda? I suppose the sun shines a lot, but I imagine wind turbine parts are easier to get. Lots of considerations. But she already has the bike.

  3. Hackius says:

    I don’t understand… how did she have the knowledge to make something like this? She has no internet access, no books and no education. How on earth did she make THAT?

    1. AndyL says:

      You don’t need much knowhow to do this.

      phone chargers are very simple devices. All the circuitry is built into the phone, and in my experience they’re pretty forgiving about input voltages. You just need to pump some voltage in there (The amount will often be printed on the phone somewhere) and let the phone do the rest.

      Basically what she’s done here is cut the wall-wart off of her phone charger and connect the wires to a home-made battery compartment.

      It’s like those Minty-Boost things, but with D cells instead of AA cells.

      1. AndyL says:

        To me, the most impressive part is not the build itself, which is a bit rough, but the fact that she wasn’t too intimidated to try.

        Here in USA most people I know would never do this because they were afraid to “mess something up” and because they have some vague sense that modifying consumer goods is somehow taboo.

        The funny thing is that most of those same people, who are afraid to mess something up, could *easily* buy a new phone in the event that they somehow break it.

        I’ll bet that if the woman in the story had to replace that phone it would make a serious dent in her household budget.

  4. monique says:

    I think the condition push her to do this.
    People will show their capability and potency when they in hard condition.
    If we can develop somthing new why not?

  5. Dustbuster7000 says:

    I wouldn’t even bother with the bike stand, rig up a wheel rim dyno like those used to power bike headlamps in the old days and she can ride to where-ever and charge the phone at the same time. Yes, that will increase the work required to ride the bike, but not hugely and the energy of forward momentum (and any hills she might go down) will help stabilise the flow of power into the phone, like a flywheel effect (something she won’t get from a stationary bike). If she has other people in her area that won’t there phone charged, then a stationary bike might be a good idea, she could start a phone charging business if there is enough demand for it. Solar cells are going to be difficult to get in a lot of rural areas of Africa, but you can build a wind turbine (as someone above said) from various mechanical parts (assuming there is enough wind in the area.

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