Montrose man’s solar rechargeable lights avoid others’ pitfalls
Steve Nagel was seeking a better rechargeable light source, and when the idea bulb illuminated in his mind, it wasn’t an incandescent bulb.
It was the UV Paqlite, a foldable, rollable, rechargeable and inexpensive source of light based on a chemical reaction to ambient light.
Nagel, a Montrose resident with several successful businesses behind him and ties to the Grand Valley, said the idea for the UV Paqlite system came to him after becoming dissatisfied with the one-use glow sticks and other chemical light systems.
Those other products have a limited life, need to be broken to mix two toxic chemicals and then need care when disposing.
“I knew this was something that needed to be advanced,” he said, “so I started looking at the crystals themselves.”
Nagel, understandably reluctant to reveal all of his proprietary information, said the Paqlite uses a combination of strontium and aluminum combined with various rare earths, so-called because they commonly are interspersed in other ore bodies and not by themselves in large, commercially available deposits.
China produces 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, and Nagel taps some of his Chinese contacts to obtain the rare earths he uses.
Paqlites are thin wafers of green light, the glow-emitting beads safely enclosed in a tough, vacuum-sealed pillow of polyurethane and nylon.
The new six-inch Tooblite is a sealed torch that also can be recharged indefinitely.
He laughs when asked about his latest endeavor, modestly claiming he isn’t an inventor.
“I guess I’m an entrepreneur type of guy, but I didn’t know that when I came out of law school,” he said. “I’m not an inventor, but I invented this by accident.”
He graduated Arizona State University in 1973 and earned a juris doctorate from the University of Wyoming in 1976.
Nagel attended Lincoln Park Elementary School for a year, and his wife, Viki, still has family in Fruita and Grand Junction.
The Paqlite wasn’t totally by accident, and Nagel says, “There’s nothing like this out there.”
Jerry Wigutow, owner of Grand Junction-based Wiggy’s, a manufacturer of high-end sleeping bags and other specialty outdoor gear, said he took one look at the Paqlite and decided to list it on his website, wiggys.com.
“I looked at the light and told him, ‘I think this will sell,’ ” said Wigutow, who makes a protective sleeve for the light, which he calls the “Amazing Perpetual Light.”
“I gave him an order for several hundred, put it on my site on a Friday, and I got orders all weekend,” Wigutow said Wednesday. “I think I got several hundred orders just today.”
All it takes is a few minutes of sunlight or other light source to recharge the Paqlite, Nagel said.
“Even if you’re inside your tent, and there’s enough (ambient) you can see, the Paqlite is recharging,” he said.
Nagel said his paqlites are applicable where other light sources aren’t.
“Candles, light bulbs and flashlights all have their applications, but candles can blow out, and light bulbs and batteries burn out,” he said. “With the Paqlite, you can be sure a source of light will be available without ever having to do anything.”
Campers, hunters, anglers, RV owners, search and rescue groups, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed interest, he said.
“One guy in Utah bought 2,000 of the lights for his church ward,” Nagel said. “They like to be prepared.”
Wigutow said he already is looking into other markets for the light.
“I do a lot of business with the military, and one guy asked me, ‘How do you turn it off?’ ” Wigutow said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Put it in your pocket.’ “
Nagel’s goal is to someday have the renewable lights available in countries where light sources are scarce.
“These don’t require batteries or plug-ins. Just put them in the sun for 15 minutes, and they’re ready,” he said. “I’d like it to be available all over the world as an emergency resource.”
He said the light would be useful right now following the natural disasters in Japan and Haiti.
“You could hand them one of my lights and tell people, ‘Here’s a light, take it with you,’ ” Nagel said.
The Paqlite website, http://www.uvpaqlite.com, displays many endorsements, including one reader claiming to have purchased more than 30 of the lights because his family and friends keep taking his.
For now, Nagel is working to keep his business on the Western Slope.
“I love innovation, and I love the commercialization of it,” he said. “This is something we can produce right here and put people to work on the Western Slope.”