Personal solar panel could make electricity more accessible in the developing world

As a child in Mali, Abdrahamane Traoré often did his homework by the sooty, dim light of a kerosene lamp.

As an adult in Michigan, he sometimes has a tough time reaching his family back home. Traoré's mother must walk to a neighboring village to keep a cell phone charged.

Electricity isn't always a plug away in much of the developing world. That's why Traoré and University of Michigan engineering student Md. Shanhoor Amin teamed up to develop the Emerald, a personal solar panel the size of a paperback.

The young engineers are the founders of June Energy, an award-winning start-up spending its second semester in the TechArb student business incubator.

The company recently received more than $500,000 in venture capital, and it's about to ship its first 40 domestic orders.

Amin and Traoré, along with chief technical officer Allan Taylor, are planning a trip to Kenya and Mali later this semester to test their prototype with the people it was primarily designed for.