An estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide live without dependable electric power. In places like Kenya, lead-acid batteries are affixed to bare wires and used to charge cellphones, radios and lights. By collecting baseline data on how these batteries are used, the two researchers hope to show that an improved battery system can hasten rural electrification.
But Mr. Ketterle, 23, and Mr. Lin, 28, struggle to pay for their research. The grant-making structure of their field and of the institutions in which they were trained means that small-scale research grants of less than $50,000 — the kind that could support new researchers with untested, independent ideas — are limited. That is where Eureka Fund comes in.
Eureka Fund, based in San Francisco, is one of a handful of new nonprofit organizations created to give the general public an opportunity to pay for scientific research that is not fully supported by government or private sources. They are part of a fledgling movement to take the idea of crowd-sourcing and crowd-financing, which has worked in arenas like small business and education, to scientific research.