The Project

We have conceived of a new power distribution transformer using post-consumer electronics. It is called the Microformer. Our design enables commercially viable electrification architectures suitable for developing communities at a fraction of the cost of existing commercial alternatives. Using recycled components from post post-consumer products, we built an alternative to existing power distribution transformers. This transformer embodies the concept of “right-sizing” which allows for greater electrical penetration for rural developing world electricity consumers. By lowering the power rating of distribution transformers, increasing the transmission voltage, and by re-servicing consumer product components to save manufacturing energy, and keep waste out of landfills, our product succeeds where previous attempts have failed.

The Microformer is an enabling technology, allowing small grids in rural developing world settings to be created, interconnecting distributed renewable energy generation and other sources. This Microformer-based grid allows generation and load to interconnect in a fashion that minimizes power losses while keeping costs very low. Other rural electrification options do not balance cost, transmission voltage, power rating, and resource reuse like the Microformer does. Renewable and distributed generation in rural developing world settings, once restricted by cost or power loss disadvantages, can now use Microformers to enable the distribution of electricity over distances that are on the order of kilometers in length at a fraction of the cost of traditional techniques, thus providing another tool to combat energy poverty.

Through “right-sizing” and using society’s waste as a resource base, the Microformer allows efficiency and life cycle energy gains to be realized in comparison to other transformer alternatives. These gains occur through energy savings in not manufacturing new transformers (but rather, re-servicing parts from post consumer products, i.e. microwave ovens), and power savings in increasing transmission voltage and enabling renewable energy penetration with respect to a certain class of rural electrification. These savings will result in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions associated with transformer manufacturing and certain types of electricity transmission. Additionally, Microformers allow for the reduction of wood and oil use for light, the decrease of indoor air pollution, and some sources of black carbon, all of which help to mitigate the effects of climate change [1].

[1] International Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Organization. “Summary for Policymakers.” 2007.
Copyright Microformer 2011