• Portable Light textiles charge in the sun in a Huichol village in the Tateikie region of the Sierra Madre, Mexico. A Huichol man in the Sierra Madre uses a Portable Light textile to charge his cell phone and place a call to check market prices.

    Portable Light textiles charge in the sun in a Huichol village in the Tateikie region of the Sierra Madre, Mexico. A Huichol man in the Sierra Madre uses a Portable Light textile to charge his cell phone and place a call to check market prices.

    Photo / KVA MATx

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Kennedy's Portable Light wins Tech Award

Portable Light textiles charge in the sun in a Huichol village in the Tateikie region of the Sierra Madre, Mexico. A Huichol man in the Sierra Madre uses a Portable Light textile to charge his cell phone and place a call to check market prices.


A groundbreaking renewable energy project directed by Sheila Kennedy, professor of the practice of architecture at MIT and principal of KVA MATx in Boston, has won an international award for technology that benefits humanity.

The Portable Light Project, a nonprofit initiative established by Kennedy and MATx, the materials research unit at KVA, was selected as one of 25 laureates of this year's Tech Awards.

The Portable Light Project embeds flexible photovoltaic materials, digital electronics and solid state lighting in textiles, enabling people in the developing world to create and own energy harvesting textile blankets, bags and clothing using local materials and traditional weaving and sewing techniques. In addition to Kennedy, MIT alumni Sloan Kulper '03 and Casey Smith SM '02 have worked on the project since 2004.

"More than two billion people worldwide do not have access to electric power or light." Kennedy said. "Portable Light takes the approach that clean energy technology can be provided in an open source model that is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of people in different cultures and global regions. It's a great honor for the Portable Light Project to be recognized as a 2008 Tech Award Laureate as we expand to South Africa, Nicaragua and Brazil."

Established in 2001 by the San Jose, Calif.-based Tech Museum of Innovation, the Tech Awards recognize laureates in five universal categories: education, equality, environment, economic development and health. The Portable Light Project is a laureate in the economic development category; one laureate in each category will receive a $50,000 cash prize during an awards ceremony Nov. 12.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 17, 2008 (download PDF).


Topics: Architecture, Energy, Materials science, Awards, honors and fellowships

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