A balloon harnesses power from the sun to bring electricity to disaster zones.

 

When a town is ravaged by an earthquake or tornado, electricity is one of the first — and most crucial — items to go. This presents aid workers with a big problem when attempting to provide urgent medical assistance and supplies. Normally reliant upon expensive diesel generators, a high-tech balloon could provide a fuel-free option.

The Zephyr Photovoltaic Balloon looks nothing like the Mylar ones often employed to celebrate birthday parties, but instead falls somewhere in between a kite and the hot air variety. Created by three French engineers and designers, they claim the portable device coated in solar cells can provide enough electricity for 50 people or power a makeshift hospital.

The balloon itself contains several components, including an onboard computer, a water compartment, and a drawer holding the balloon and its accompanying cable. Adding water to the device produces hydrogen, which inflates the balloon. The balloon can soar up to 50 meters, allowing it to be fully exposed to the sun. The balloon absorbs solar energy, which travels down the cable that anchors it to the base. The energy can be used immediately or stored in batteries for nighttime use.

Still in its prototype phase, designer Cédric Tomissi anticipates having it up and running by July of this year, Fast Company reports. They’re still working out a few kinks, including a simple button to deflate the balloon after use and making sure it can withstand windy weather. 

Top photo courtesy of Zephyr’s Facebook Page