BioLite’s newest product is the NanoGrid, a lighting system that charges up using either the BioLite CampStove or the HomeStove. Both stoves use the heat from the flames inside to generate electricity. The battery for the system is in a sort of lamp/flashlight, called the PowerLight. Multiple SiteLights can connect into the PowerLight, though. The SiteLights are meant to be hung and come with ten-foot cords built in.
“One of the sparks that led to the birth of the NanoGrid happened on a research trip in India,” BioLite Director of Industrial Design Anton Ljunggren said in an email. “We visited a family who lived in a 2-room house. They only had one light, a tube light, but needed both rooms lit. The elegant solution they had come up with was to cut a whole in the wall and have half the tube light pierce through on each side.”
Ljunggren sent us that email from Uganda, where he was on another field research trip. “Our product design group splits their time equally between research and development for the two markets we work in,” he said. “We go camping to test and learn about user behaviors for the outdoor recreational market and we go to India and Subsaharan Africa to do user interviews for our customers here.”
Seeing the products being used, but also improvised solutions like the one in India, helps improve BioLite’s design.
The NanoGrid is the first product to be offered by BioLite that is being sold in both the developing and industrialized parts of the world.
“The concept of the NanoGrid was based on our research in Subsaharan Africa and India,” Ljunggren wrote. “They both need wayfinding, portable light and a more permanent set up to light a home and create a sense of space. Having two similar use cases doesn’t mean that the design drivers are all the same. But that’s a positive challenge for the team as we have to work within the constraints of both users, one adding value to the other.”
After charging mobile phones, light has been the next most popular use for the extra electricity that BioLite’s stoves generate. “As a company, we see ourselves as enablers of energy,” Ljunggren wrote. “Energy can be fire to cook, electricity to charge a phone or light to see. Since BioLite generates energy, it was a natural step for us to store and use that energy.”
The lights use something called edge-lighting, where the lighting surface evenly distributes the light. That way they don’t make hot spots and they also use space more efficiently. A fully charged PowerLight can run two SiteLights for as much as 70 hours (depending on the brightness setting). It can also charge your phone along the way. The setup costs $99.95.