Many of us think nothing when simply flipping a switch illuminates a room. But in many parts of the world, having electrical power  is not only a luxury, but a medical necessity.
The lack of electricity is especially problematic for diagnosing Kaposi’s sarcoma, a deadly skin cancer often associated with HIV. That’s because, in order to determine whether or not someone has the disease, rigorous testing is required, all of which requires power—and a lot of it. But now, Cornell researchers have developed a device that can detect this cancer in about 30 minutes simply using a smartphone app and the power of the sun, the Cornell Chronicle reports.
This solar-powered test, called the KS-Detect, is especially useful in sub-Saharan Africa where mortality rates from this cancer are high partly due to late diagnosis of HIV. As Cornell’s David Erickson explained in a news release, “Some places in the developing world have limited infrastructure and unreliable electricity, and these kinds of tests usually hog energy.”
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With this new device, the lack of electricity is no longer a problem—especially since your typical smartphone battery can provide up to 70 hours of power. “Tests can be performed in less than a half-hour, potentially enabling rapid diagnostics where long travel distances to clinics make follow-up meetings with patients difficult,” said Ethel Cesarman, M.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Currently, the Cornell researchers are now testing the KS-Detect in Uganda. Using solar power to save lives — now that’s a bright idea.