Every year, Foreign Policy publishes a list of names in various innovative categories that have recently been especially prominent. The following are three particularly distinguished contributions from the official “Innovators” category of the 2013 Global Thinkers List:

Xiaolin Zheng, “for giving us solar power anywhere, literally”

A Stanford University professor has engineered a revolutionary object: the “solar sticker,” or a tiny cell which makes it possible for solar power to be generated on any given surface.

Cheap to manufacture, flexible and only one square centimeter in size, the “solar sticker” will change the entire market for portable power in the near future. The professor herself, believes that this is only the beginning: the material can be combined with other tools in order to create new aerospace systems, for example.

Beyond that, it will aid those stricken by poverty and/or residing in the third world to gain access to affordable, efficient power.

Jim Reeves and Martin Riddiford, “for using gravity to light the world”

Designers behind GravityLight have designed a low cost LED light which, as the name suggests, powers itself through gravity. The curious contraption consists of a medium sized lantern attached to a pole with a 25 pound bag on it.

The bag is lifted; as it slowly descends, it grinds gears that set the light motor in motion. It lasts for about half an hour – when the bag reaches the bottom, all one needs to do is lift it back up again.

The invention, praised by sponsors, has received over $400,000 USD in funding to cover the project expenses. Bill Gates described it as “pretty cool” and it is set to cost only about $5 USD. A shipment of 1,000 eco and economically friendly exemplars is expected to be sent out to Africa for initial field testing.

Bre Pettis, “for revolutionizing the way we make things”

In a five year collaboration with a Brooklyn-based hacker collective, this former schoolteacher and man of many talents has developed an affordable 3D printer.

The first prototype of this invention, MakerBot, has already sold over 15,000 copies, quickly rising in popularity.

Since 3D printers are– in modern society–visualized to be something like “the microwave of the future,” present in every household, making it affordable is an important step towards that future. The device itself has prospects of being the medium for prosthetic limb creation, among countless other possibilities.

Pettis’ and his peers’ work allows for it to be generalized, opening the world of 3D printing and modification to more people.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Foreign Policy, Bre Pettis, MIT Technology Review, Inhabitat
Photo: Gizmag