Offbeat & Off the Grid: 15 Surprisingly Mobile Solar Gadgets

Phone Charger for Developing Nations
Mobile Solar PHone Charger

Barely larger than a lunch box, this little device is a solar-charging hub that can provide up to 40 cell phone charges per day in areas where electricity is hard to come by. BuffaloGrid’s charger, which costs about $425 to manufacture, is provided for free to entrepreneurs in the community, who travel around offering it up to locals. Customers pay for the service via a text to the company, and the operators receive a portion of that revenue.

SunCutter Off-Grid Laser Cutter & 3D Printer
Mobile Solar SunCutter 1

Mobile Solar SunCutter 2

Sand and the sun may not seem like adequate materials to produce much of anything, but industrial designer Markus Kayser puts them both to work with a genius 3D printer. Powered by the sun, the printer turns the sand into glass, producing all sorts of objects. And since it’s using plentiful and natural sand rather than plastic, the possibilities are literally endless. A second project, the Sun Cutter, uses concentrated sunlight to make precision laser cuts.

Solar Bike Helmet Charges Phones
Mobile Solar Bike Helmet

Developed in just three days at India’s Nirma University, this project simply mounts some solar panels onto a bike helmet to harness enough energy while riding around to power up a phone. It takes just 40 minutes of riding to gather up enough power, and the design could be replicated for as little as $22.

Solar-Powered Cockroach

Mobile Solar Cockroach

It may just be a toy (available for a mere $2.50 on Amazon), but the solar-powered cockroach is an interesting example of solar energy being integrated into toys or taken on the go in totally unexpected ways. Sized to fit in the palm of your hand, it could definitely catch people off-guard when placed in the sun near an unsuspecting crowd.

Solar Bikini
Mobile Solar bikini

While it’s not exactly suitable for swimming, the solar-powered bikini by Andrew Schneider can definitely make a day of sunbathing a little more productive by keeping your phone or mp3 player juiced up. It’s made up of thin, flexible photovoltaic film strips for comfort and costs about $200.