Luma League: Superbright LEDs Save Lives Supercheap

Biohacking Craft & Design Technology
Luma League: Superbright LEDs Save Lives Supercheap

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:

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Paul Spinrad is a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco. He hatches schemes at

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