Dengue fever has become widespread in the tropical world, causing as many as 390 million infections per year in 128 different countries. The disease has become especially prevalent in Asian and Pacific countries over the last 50 years, and the economic impact of dengue infections is an estimated $2 billion per year. In October, there was a surge of dengue cases in Asia, with five countries experiencing significant increases.
Malaysia experienced an unprecedented outbreak in 2015, which has so far killed more than 200 people. With the growing outbreak in Malaysia and Asia, there is an increasing need to control mosquito populations. Recently, researchers at the University of Malaya (UM) devised an LED street lamp that aims to capture mosquitoes to curb the spread of dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
The street lamp, called the Eco-Greenergy outdoor lighting system, was created by Dr. Chong Wen Tong at UM’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. The lamp is meant to bring better light sources to Malaysian cities and remote communities while also fighting mosquito-borne disease. It consists of an LED street lamp that produces low levels of carbon dioxide to mimic odours associated with humans, attracting the insects. The level of carbon dioxide emitted by the light is kept low to minimize emissions, but is still very attractive to mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes enter a trap through windows on the top of the lamp, and are pulled into a net and kept there by a suction fan. The light functions entirely on wind and solar energy and is self-sustaining, meaning it can supply basic electricity even in very remote areas. The battery, electrical wiring, and controller are also installed on the top of the light pole, so that the light can even continue to function during floods.
So far, eight of the street lights have been installed on the UM campus and a few other sites in Kuala Lumpur as part of an 18-month pilot project. Dr. Chong and his research team say that the first version of the light is now ready for market, and an agreement with a company has already been signed. Although LED lights can last much longer than conventional street lighting, they are still quite expensive.
Each lamp costs about US$2,850 to purchase and install. However, Dr. Chong argues that the installation of conventional street lights requires considerable more construction. With this LED lamp, costs such as trenching and cabling to connect to the electrical grid are completely eliminated. Moreover, the LED lamps can reduce demand on main electrical grids in urban areas and generate electricity for basic needs in more remote and rural areas.
Dr. Chong believes the lamps will be able provide clean power to light streets and protect from mosquito-borne illnesses in developing countries across the world. Although pricey, the LED lamp’s green energy system, self-sustaining model, and easy installation provide a valuable benefit. “The device is tailor-made for developing countries, where power outages and dengue fever are common problems for rural residents,” Bernard Saw Lip Huat, engineer at the University of Tunku Abdul Rahman, tells SciDev.net. “I firmly believe these benefits have the potential to make this inventions desirable to the engineering world today,” he says.