Skip to main content

Jeremiah Thoronka and Hugh Jackman

Jeremiah Thoronka, a Postgraduate Anthropology Student has recently become the first winner of a new $100,000 prize which was announced earlier this week from the UNESCO Headquarters and presented virtually by actor, Hugh Jackman.

Jeremiah’s work

Jeremiah, from Sierra Leone, invented a device that uses kinetic energy from traffic and pedestrians to generate clean power.

Growing up in a slum camp for displaced people on the outskirts of the capital Freetown, Jeremiah saw how the effects of burning charcoal and wood for lighting and heat were having a detrimental impact on health and children’s progression.

At 17, he launched a start-up called Optim Energy that transforms vibrations from vehicles and pedestrian footfall on roads into an electric current, generating power without relying on changeable weather and not needing connection to an external power source.

With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 households comprising around 1,500 citizens, as well as 15 schools where more than 9,000 students attend.

Kate Hampshire, Head of Anthropology at Durham commented “We are delighted that Jeremiah has won the Global Student Prize for his amazing work in clean energy. Jeremiah's inspirational research is reflective of the wider work of many of our students and academic researchers across the University which is helping to meet the challenges faced by the world including putting plastic waste back into use, educating young people in the importance of soil health, and greening cities. It is fantastic to see his work have such an impact and we congratulate him on this amazing achievement."

Jeremiah Thoronka

The award

The inaugural Global Student Prize is given to one exceptional student who has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond and is the sister award to the coveted Global Teacher Prize.

Find out more:

Image credits: The Varkey Foundation