How Alice Min Soo Chun, inventor of the SolarPuff™ harnessed the Sun’s Power to Light Up Disaster-Stricken Regions

Alice Min Soo Chun
Alice Min Soo Chun
Alice Min Soo Chun: Shaping the Future with Solar Innovations

Alice Min Soo Chun, a Korean-born inventor, social entrepreneur, and educator, has transformed the world of renewable energy with her innovative solar-powered designs. Her groundbreaking inventions, like the SolarPuff™ and MegaPuff, have not only been recognized for their unique design and functionality but also for their profound impact in disaster-stricken areas around the globe.

The Origin Story

Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Alice’s early years were spent exploring the intricate art of origami with her mother. This fascination with design and structure led her to pursue a degree in architecture at Penn State University, followed by a Masters in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

Her academic pursuits did not end with her personal education. Alice extended her knowledge and passion for architecture as a professor at Columbia University. Here, she started experimenting with solar panels and fabric, aiming to create a malleable material that could harness solar energy.

Alice’s drive to explore solar technology intensified when her son, Quinn, was diagnosed with asthma. This personal experience sparked her determination to develop clean energy solutions.

The Birth of SolarPuff™

Alice’s first major invention, the SolarPuff™, was a product of her academic research and personal motivation. It was the world’s only self-inflatable, portable solar light, eliminating the need for a mouth nozzle and ensuring a healthy, sanitary inflation method.

The SolarPuff™ underwent three years of field testing in Haiti before Alice launched her company, Solight Design, in 2015. Her innovative solar light was introduced to the world through a successful Kickstarter campaign that exceeded all expectations.

Other Solar Innovations

Following the success of SolarPuff™, Alice continued to innovate. She developed the HELIX, a product similar to the SolarPuff™ but with a translucent diffuser. The Twilight, a smaller version with white and red lights, and the Qwnn, a larger origami lamp with a power bank, often referred to as the “Sydney Opera house.”

Her most recent invention, the MegaPuff, is a more extensive cube lamp with a phone charging power bank. This new product was also launched on Kickstarter, reinforcing Alice’s commitment to accessible, sustainable, and practical energy solutions.

Recognition and Awards

Alice’s hard work and innovative spirit have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous accolades, including the US Patent Award for Humanity and the 2022 FORBES Women in Impact Award. Her products have been exhibited at the prestigious MOMA, the Modern Museum of Art in New York City.

She was also featured in the 2022 AppleTV Plus docuseries GUTSY alongside Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.

Lighting Up Disaster-Stricken Regions

Alice’s inventions have had a significant impact beyond the commercial market. Her solar-powered lights have illuminated disaster-stricken regions, including Nepal, Nigeria, Turkey, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Syria, Dominica, and Guatemala.

Education and Entrepreneurship

Alice’s role as an educator has significantly influenced her journey as an inventor and social entrepreneur. She believes that the skills required to lead a class of students or a team of faculty are similar to those needed to run a company. Both roles require vision, curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to inspire others toward a common goal.

Overcoming Challenges

Despite the increasing efficiency and accessibility of photovoltaic technology, Alice faced challenges in finding the right manufacturer for her products. However, her resourcefulness and determination ensured these hurdles did not hinder her progress.

Earthquake kit

Making a Difference in Ukraine

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alice’s multi-colored SolarPuffs were distributed to children suffering from PTSD after the bombing of power stations. These lights provided a sense of calm and helped the children sleep at night, demonstrating the profound impact of Alice’s inventions beyond their practical applications.

Advice for Aspiring Women Inventors

Alice believes that empathy, resourcefulness, and grit are essential qualities for aspiring inventors. She advises others to focus on problem-solving, conduct thorough research, and never give up, no matter their challenges.

Launching the MegaPuff

The MegaPuff was designed to address a critical need in disaster-stricken areas: communication. A built-in phone charger provides a lifeline for individuals to stay connected with their loved ones and access necessary information. Its lighter weight and lower price point make it an ideal solution for disaster relief efforts.

Alice Min Soo Chun’s journey is a testament to the power of innovation, perseverance, and a deep-seated desire to make a difference. She continues to light up the world through her solar-powered inventions, one SolarPuff at a time.

All photos courtesy of Solight Delight

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