Kettering graduate building portable power source

May 28, 2013

Md Shahnoor Amin '09 has launched a portable energy power source for mobile devices.

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The Duniah team. Photo provided by Md Shahnoor Amin.

Technical expertise is an important element to entrepreneurially-minded individuals. Imagination and inspiration, however, are also critical.

Md Shahnoor Amin, who graduated from Kettering University in 2009 with a degree in Electrical Engineering and earned his master’s degree at the University of Michigan in 2010, was inspired by both the tangible and intangible aspects of his education when he began creating a vision for his company, Duniah, in 2011.

Duniah designs portable energy solutions to help users achieve energy independence and sustainability. Amin formed Duniah with two other engineers -- lead mechanical engineer Maruthi Chaluvadi, a University of Michigan graduate from India, and Muaz Rabah, lead electrical engineer and a Flint, Mich., native who attended Michigan State University. Together, they developed their debut product called Magma. They’ve received significant seed funding through various sources, and also invested their own personal assets.

Magma is a smart power source for iPad, iPhone, Android and most mobile devices. It tracks energy usage of users and allows them to share energy savings on Facebook. The powerful, solar-powered device is intended to serve as a power source for people with limited access to electricity. The handheld-size Magma uses solar energy to charge its internal battery, and also has a USB port for charging most mobile phones and other devices. Amin hopes that as more people use Magma here in developed countries, it will one day help make the technology available to destitute families in developing regions around the world.

“Our team is passionate about implementing clean, portable energy solutions around the world,” Amin said.

Amin and his team currently are seeking $15,000 in funding through Kickstarter, a funding platform for projects where innovators can publicize their project and goals in an effort to connect with potential contributors. The funding will allow them to produce, test, and manufacture the products, while also developing the software. Magma is currently on pre-order on Kickstarter with numerous pre-orders already placed. It will ship later this year. It is also designed to be companion gear to recreation hobbyists, hikers, mountain climbers, hunters and others who are active outdoors. People in the military, Peace Corps, Red Cross or other organizations that frequent areas where access to electricity could be limited can also implement Magma.

There are two unique versions.

Magma Mini will feature a 2,000+ mAh battery and 3W+ solar panel with enough power to charge an iPhone 5 and virtually any other mobile device. It features a micro-USB input to charge internal battery when there's no sun. With good sunlight, Magma mini can charge its internal battery in less than five hours. It will retail for $99, but is currently on exclusive pre-order for $59 on Kickstarter.

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Magma Pro is for those with more power needs. It is powerful enough to work with iPads. Magma Pro will feature a 5,000+ mAh high-capacity battery and 5W+ solar panel. It also features micro-USB Input to charge the internal battery when there's no sun, and features LED battery indicators. It will retail for $149, and currently on pre-order for $99 on Kickstarter.

During his time at Kettering, Amin was inspired by the concept of using engineering to help others.

“One of my most memorable classes at Kettering was my senior seminar class with Dr. (Michael) Callahan,” Amin said. “It really inspired creativity and the importance of leadership and standing up for your beliefs. Something I took away from the class was that innovation is not just about being intelligent, but that you have to be able to solve real problems which exist, and intimately understand the needs of people you’re trying to help.”

Callahan, Professor of History and the current Frances Willson Thompson Professor of Leadership Studies at Kettering, is happy to see his former student’s entrepreneurial success.

“I am very pleased about Shahnoor’s success and am proud of the important work he is doing,” Callahan said. “While part of Kettering University’s mission is to prepare future leaders for a global society, one of the primary goals of LS 489, ‘Senior Seminar: Leadership, Ethics, and Contemporary Issues,’ is to help our students understand the meaning of effective as well as socially responsible leadership in a complex world.”

The vision for Duniah came about based on that type of inspiration – Amin had discussions with a family friend who had just returned to Africa, recounting struggles that he’d witnessed by people who had no access to electricity. Amin, who is from Bangladesh, had also seen the impact which lack of electricity could have on daily lives.

“It’s often taken for granted here, but it’s a huge problem in much of the developing world,” Amin said. “There are only so many hours of daylight. Imagine how hard, for example, it would be for students to try and study with no light at home. Lack of electricity can impact so many aspects of daily life. And many of these people use kerosene lamps or burning wood for energy, which are very harmful for your lungs, especially in enclosed huts where these people usually live. We saw many individuals who received severe third-degree burns from spilled kerosene lamps. As more individuals in developing countries aspire for a better life, we have to ensure that they’re pursuing sustainable, clean energy solutions. It has a tremendous impact on our environment. Just recently, we learned from Chinese sources that there were 1.2 million air pollution deaths in China during 2010. So we hope our work has a tremendous impact on both the environment and improving the health of people worldwide.”

Amin set out to help make electricity more accessible by designing solar panel systems that could be used in impoverished areas. Quickly, though, he learned that the solution had to be a practical one.

“The people who need the technology won’t be able to implement it if it costs $6,000 or more per household for the technology,” Amin said. “So we started thinking about how to make the technology both affordable and portable. We would be able to use revenue from these sales to people who are very willing to buy Magma here. For every one we sell over $70k in sales, we will give one away free to people who are in need and can’t afford them in Syria, Bangladesh, and other developing regions around the world, and pave the way to a cleaner, healthier, and sustainable world.”

For more information about the company, visit www.duniah.com. To place pre-orders before they run out, visit the Kickstarter page.