Alice Min Soo Chun is a woman driven by a passion to do good and help save the planet, powered by the innovative products she invented with sustainable lighting technology.

Chun is a former university professor who has taught architecture and materials technology at MIT, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. She worked with her students to build and test prototypes for the best results with regards to the material’s functionality, appearance, and durability. The result was the founding of Solite Design and the invention of the Solarpuff Light and related products.

As the old saying goes: Necessity is the mother of invention. This mom took that saying to heart when she was battling her young son’s asthma.

Her son’s condition, as well as a homeless mother and her family receiving light and heat from a kerosene fire at the end of a city street, gave her a packable, inflatable and swimmable solution to reduce respiratory pollution. Inspired to develop solar lantern.

In the middle of the street was a jug filled with kerosene with a large, thick rope coming out of a container lit by fire. Alice knew she had to do something because she thought that children were breathing extremely harmful chemicals and toxins in the smoke every day.

“Solite is much more than being about an item or a product. It is about creating change,” Chun said.

Those experiences made him realize that health, the environment and poverty are closely related. He wondered how a simple solution like Solite could “deal with all three.”

Alice Min Shu Chun, founder of Solite Design
Alice Chun stepped out of her role as a university professor to focus on developing innovative portable solar power technology to benefit the world’s needy and improve their quality of life.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

As a fledgling female entrepreneur and product developer, Chun faced more obstacles than she faced in starting her business. His passion for doing good and helping people who have suffered from natural calamities inspired him to work on his goals.

“For anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, I think the first thing you have to do is really think about how you can help people and how you can solve the problems that life throws at you. better,” Chun offered.

Inventors and entrepreneurs should really love what they are doing because it is so hard, she continued. It’s so competitive and there’s an incredibly tremendous amount of work involved.

“You really have to believe in what you are doing. Otherwise, you are just going to give up,” Chun said.

Solar solutions to fight pollution

Seeing so many children with asthma, which is a much higher percentage today than in childhood, Chun researched the situation and found that pollution in urban environments comes from energy consumption and construction, creating 75% of pollutants in the air. There are.

She learned that it was too early to rapidly change susceptibility in our human gene pool. Therefore, Chun began to focus on solar power as a way of addressing the environmental situation.

Inventors began sewing solar panels to various types of clothing as technological innovations produced lighter and stronger materials. She was developing this concept when the Haiti earthquake struck in 2010.

More frequent natural disasters, such as floods from Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami strike in Japan, and then the Haiti earthquake, fueled his desire to find a solution to the darkness caused by the lack of electricity. Those events inspired Chun to do something to help.

Most recently, Solite partnered with the non-profit organization Florida Rising to send Solitees to victims in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which devastated the Sunshine State after making landfall on September 28.

never ending testing ground

Chun and his Solite supporters have been actively involved in many global disasters. His humanitarian efforts continue with solar lighting for refugees trapped between Russian incursions and war in Ukraine. Those global events include disasters in Senegal, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, Senegal and 16 other places.

“I turned my studio at Columbia University into an innovation studio to help Haiti. That’s when we realized Haiti was a microcosm of what was happening globally in areas that don’t have electricity.

“With 2.6 billion people in the world living without access to electricity, they use kerosene, a deadly toxic fuel, to light their world at night,” Chun told TechNewsWorld.

Burning kerosene kills 2 million children every year due to asthma, respiratory problems and toxic fumes. In Haiti, where there is extreme poverty, and people live on $3 a day, they spend up to 30% of their income on kerosene, she explained.

“So that was the moment I started being a social entrepreneur. They could have saved the money they would have spent buying kerosene for lights and could instead buy food for their kids and pay for other needs. were,” she said.

Chun researched every solar lighting product on the market. They were all big, heavy, bulky and ugly. So, she used her childhood experiences while doing origami. This contributed to him inventing the solar backpack. She spent five years testing it with women farmers on the central plateau in Haiti.

kickstarter success

That was the beginning of Chun’s journey with solar power and the development of her Solite product. Thanks to a Kickstarter program in 2015, it raised half a million dollars in 30 days.

At the time, there was an earthquake in Nepal, and as part of his campaign, he increased the funding target for Nepal to include buy-a-give-a-Nepal, a contribution to helping victims there. was a tremendous success.

“We had volunteers who were on our way to Nepal. We lit up small villages on the hill with lights. It was something that we have been doing even now. We have sent light for refugees from Ukraine, and we have a volunteer in Peru,” she offered.

The lighting of sustainable lighting is impressive, including at a church group in Puerto Rico, where Chun’s company provided lighting support during and after Hurricane Maria in the form of lighting kits to thousands of people without electricity.

“There are so many different uses for Solite. Our philosophy is that if we all work together to make a difference, just a small act can make a huge impact,” Chun offered.

solar lantern

Solite is a solar rechargeable mobile LED light source powered by innovative solar technology. The lighting designs resemble lightweight, foldable origami lanterns that mimic the Japanese art form and inflate themselves. Depending on the product, solar power can be stored for longer use with the included solar-rechargeable power pack.

A standard rechargeable solar lantern carries up to eight hours of sunlight through eight hours of darkness. Brightness output varies with product and ranges from 40 to 600 lumens. The high-tech waterproof fabric is designed for extreme weather and swimming, and they fold flat and travel anywhere with ease.

Part of Chun’s passion for the Solite concept is helping to heal the environment. According to Chun, 90 pounds of carbon emissions a year could be saved by using the lightweight and economical Solite technology for an hour a day instead of tapping into the electric grid to run a light bulb.

More R&D

Chun’s current product line provides affordable and sustainable off-grid lighting solutions for individuals. But it is not stopping here, as the new products are in the research and development stage.

There are prototypes in the works that deal with applying Solite technology to applications such as phone charging capabilities.

The pandemic gave rise to another invention, the transparent face mask. Surgical face masks made from polypropylene, a plastic that carries toxins to landfills and the ocean, are used globally. Billions of these masks are thrown away every year.

“It is like a ticking time bomb ecologically for the planet. We have already seen what is happening as a loss to the planet due to all the waste of these polypropylene masks,” warned Chun.

Her solution is a transparent, non-toxic silicone face mask with filter.

Alice Chun wearing a transparent face mask

Alice Chun prototypes a biodegradable transparent face mask with built-in filters that she is developing.

The goal isn’t just to eliminate the toxic waste that accumulates from pandemic face masks. She also wants to get rid of the harm that face coverings cause to children in their formative years and help those who can no longer read lips to communicate.

“Since we were all wearing masks during the pandemic, language development in children was delayed because they could not see facial expressions, and they could not read lips. He had a hard time learning the language. So, the idea of ​​facial transparency is something to help with in the future,” Chun said.

He said that silicon is recyclable. It contains no BPA and is recyclable, and the filters are cellulose biodegradable with 95% filtration efficacy.

credit: Images in this story are courtesy of Solite Design.