An Innovative and Cheap ‘Solar Bottle Bulb’ Solution Lights Homes in Manila

Thousands of poor homes in Manila have a problem, not uncommon for cramped and small settlements. These houses are so close together, with metal roofing that all the light is blocked off and no light reaches the homes even during daylight!

The solar bottle bulb, (also covered here by Sustainablog, our sister site) an innovation developed by students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, inspired by the Appropriate Technologies Collaborative, is helping poor communities in developing countries like Brazil and Philippines through simple and appropriate innovation.

solar bulb

What is the Solar Bottle Bulb?

It is a simple bottle bulb, usually a 1 liter soda bottle that is filled with a solution of purified water and bleach. The bottle is inserted halfway through a hole drilled in the metal roof and its sides are sealed. The whole deal looks like a bulb through a sunroof and provides a good amount of light by deflecting sunlight into gloomy interiors.

The chlorine and bleach “poisons” the water to keep molds from developing so the solution can last up to five years. The clear and purified water helps disperse the light through refraction, so the light is not concentrated. It only costs $2-3 to make a solar bottle bulb that is bringing light to dark homes.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Solar Bottle Bulb?

This simple innovation is not perfect- the water needs to be replaced every five years and obviously without any provision for energy storage, the bulb will not work at night. But the advantages are overwhelming for communities that are deprived of daylight. It is surprisingly effective, using cheap and locally available materials that allows the poor in these settlements to use their homes more effectively. The bulb does not produce any harmful pollutants and also reduces the dangers from faulty and temporary electrical connections that cause devastating fires.

“Isang Litrong Liwanag” Project In Manila

Per the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the idea is actively being promoted by MyShelter Foundation Inc. in the Philippines under its “Isang Litrong Liwanag” Project which means ” A Liter of Light” and it was launched in San Pedro, Laguna province early this year. Isang Litrong Liwanag is a Philippines-based organization aiming to build indoor lighting in one million homes throughout the country by 2012. The Manila City government shouldered the expenses for making the bulbs while MyShelter Foundation trained residents on how to make them.

Associations like the Appropriate Technology Collaborative create new sustainable technologies that promote economic growth and improve the quality of life for low-income people worldwide.

We design, develop, demonstrate and distribute affordable technological solutions that empower people and promote dignity. ATC works in collaboration with local talent and other nonprofits (NGOs) to create market based solutions that are culturally sensitive, environmentally responsible and locally repairable in order to improve the quality of life and reduce adverse impacts on the environment.

This project and its success is a great example of the ‘market-based’ solutions that should be pursued for socio-economic problems worldwide, strategies that are smart, effective & resourceful.


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About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+
  • Hi i am very happy to see this bulb . I want to know how come you make this bulb .what camical you used with water . Please reply me on my email id ..

    Thank you

    • Hi Harpal, I think it isn’t the chemical (bleach) that makes the bottle bulb bright. The presence of bleach just prevents moss/algae from developing in the water. Refraction is the science behind this innovation.

      • hi, i used the “robin” company liquid bleach that removes stains from cloths for this solar project.. but nothing worked.. where am i wrong.. plz help me as i’m working for an NGO and if it works v could help people in Indian villages also..!
        is there any chemical name for this bleach?

      • hi, i used the “robin” company liquid bleach that removes stains from cloths for this solar project.. but nothing worked.. where am i wrong.. plz help me as i’m working for an NGO and if it works v could help people in Indian villages also..!
        is there any chemical name for this bleach??

        • s.b.rajesh maddy

          hai! wait now i m doing this project

        • ROBIN

          it is house hold chlorine bleach (NaClO)

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  • In the watch industry we use an aluminium compound (Japanese Patent) called SuperLuminova.

    If a gel based suspension of this material could be made within the bottle then the lunimnescent output of the light would carry on for many hours after darkness. Perhaps the Japanese patentees could be persuaded to part with a few tonnes of material for extensive trials

    • rumbi

      great idea Stewart please send me more info. about this

    • Sandeep

      Great Idea Stewart, can i do it on laboratory scale, please cooperate me regarding this

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  • I saw this just now in TV Patrol and got hooked to its idea. This is so cool.

  • This is cool though can i use this in my house without asking from you a permission.


  • Do you guys know the exact address? We want to make a documentary on this.

  • hav a nyc day… i am glad upon seing d solar bulb comercial;…may i ask question? for how many years solar bulb can be used upon instulation?

    Thank u for speading your notions among poors and needed…

    please reply my Email.

  • gr8 idea … i have a que .. do we need to use chlorine or bleach or both in the water ..??
    And can we use bleaching powder .??

  • awesome!!! very creative… cheap way to light up your life…

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  • Al

    Is this patented?

  • kaifee

    can you please send email how to really make this bulb?

  • SoCo Gal

    This idea has been around for YEARS. It’s called a skylight.
    Using the water bottles as skylights showed up on the Web well over 5 years ago. Isn’t it nice that the little city kids up in Massachusetts ripped off someone else’s original idea?

    Living 100% off grid in the Rocky Mountains, we re-use and re-purpose everyday throw away items all the time. Some day I’ll post a photo of my greenhouse made from re-used plastic water bottles along with my strawbale storage shed and wood pallet inspired composting bin.


    • melvin

      does it work in the night????

      • Sandeep

        No, as per my knowledge

    • Jay

      SoCo Gal
      Would be interested in your strawbale storage shed and wood pallet inspired composting bin. Also any other type of living off nature things.

    • ButStill

      But… you didn’t take the idea and apply it to serving the people of the Philippines or other developing countries. They are making money on the idea because they saw a need and acted on it. It doesn’t matter if its been around since the creation of the wheel if no one does anything with the idea other than light their private sheds. If you have sustained yourself in such a way, you could do a lot of good in training the poor to do the same.

      I also don’t understand why no one understands how to make the bulb (in the comments) because they share it above. Bottle, filtered water, a few caps of bleach. Seal it. Super simple.

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  • Akash Lohor

    I`m very happy to hear that we can use plastic bottle. in slum area it`s very good that some people can`t use electricity so they can use this . I want to know how come you make this what camical you used with water . Please reply me on my email so i can help lot of people .

    Thank You

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  • Hi! I’ve added a light-emitting diode to the SBB so that it can be lit at night. I’ve posted it at my facebook account soon at youtube so that everyone may replicate it. Keep up the good work & more power 🙂

    • Luca

      dear Romeo,
      could you please tell me what type of light emitting diode did you used?

  • prasadu mh
  • I would like to collect plastic bottles in my area and donate them to places making lights from them. Is there anyone I can send them to? Is something like this already happening?


  • page

    does it work at night and can you please Email me does it work please. im from rurals too

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  • narayan

    Hi i am very happy to see this bulb . I want to know how come you make this bulb .what camical you used with water . Please reply me on my email id ..

    Thank you

  • itumeleng leepile

    does it work at night????????????????

  • I saw this new version a week ago in Google+, but could not retrace it today.
    I am experimenting it today to see how much light light it can restore solarly; That story said that he was able to generate about 55 watt solar power, but for how long, etc, was missing.

  • can it work during night by adding strontium aluminium

  • Joseph Ngosa

    Hey there, that’s so fascinating. but do you have to use soda or chlorine or both? please respond..

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  • Darren and Conner

    we are doing a science fair project over this solar bottle bulb. Can somebody of expertise refrence us to somebody or answer these questions.
    Q1:Who are you and how long have you been working with the solar bottle bulb? So what is your rank and name?
    Q2:How does the bottle work or light up?
    Q3:How many watts (or lumens we don’t care) does this produce?
    Q4:Is this potentially dangerous to skin (like a sunburn) or to the eyes (like looking directly at the sun)
    Q5:How or why was this created to life?

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  • Sage Lingatong

    Hi! I’m in high school and learned about this idea from a certain talk that we had in school as well in our subjects. I was wondering if you need some electricity to make this homemade bulb work. Hope you can reply ASAP. Thank you!

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  • dalen

    why can’t somebody just write the instructions instead of it being in youtube? some computers load youtube very slowly! i just want to find out how much water, how much bleach! but all the sites i’ve visited just say “water and bleach” and just paste the youtube video, which is very slow by the way. why can’t you just write it down? WHY WHY WHY???????? just write down the recepe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Luntian Kalasag

    this link stated a Brazilian invented the bottled light in 2002.

    When did this first appeared in the Philippines?
    How about those MIT students?

  • Tanmoy Das

    The idea is awesome………..beyond imagination……….

  • Elsino

    Why not a window?

  • Neneth Lumandas Sangutan

    good day! this technology helps me a lot to my research.. and I just want to ask that Is there any natural substance as a substitute for the bleach?? thank you 🙂 i really want suggestions and answer if there is any?

  • gloria

    hello how does it light up

  • Aeis

    does it work at night? kc it get light in sunlight. panu pag gabi? when you really need a light in a room. nonsense if it doesnt work at night.

  • usha

    Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Aquafina Mineral Water Distributor In Chennai.