Meet the 25-yr-old Nigerian who developed detonation engine to solve electricity problems

Power generation and distribution is a big problem in Nigeria and a Nigerian in the US is willing to save all of us from this national embrassment.

Abdulraheem Bello is the young small man with a giant’s mind. The brain behind a great startup, Afthon, established to in 2014 to solve the problem of lack of adequate access to grid-electricity in third world countries.

The epileptic power supply in Nigeria is an omnipresent headache that most of us grumble about everyday. But while this poses frustration to some, it is a source of inspiration to the young chap.

The NEPA induced darkness endeared him to the beauties of the sky at night and that inspired his interest in astronomy at a very tender age.

Bello met us at Pulse and told us everything you need to know.

This is how the idea of becoming an astronaut entered his head.

I have always wanted to become an astronaut, the dream started here growing up in Nigeria, with the up NEPA down NEPA phrase. When there is always no light everywhere, you actually see the stars. This triggered the dream to want to study the stars”.


The Story of Bello is the story of a young Nigerian who rose early to reach for the stars and nursed his dream in an unlikely environment where the idea of becoming an astronaut is a stray thought.

Born in Ebute Metta, the 25-year-old adjunct professor at the University of Texas is really pushing for his dream as he applied to be a NASA astronaut candidate.

I have always wanted to be an astronaut since I was five and all of my folks were in Nigeria back then.  I said I wanted to become an astronaut. And so, when I mentioned that to a friend, we laughed at it and he said is there is no space program out there.

But for me, I just remained resolute and focusing on the things that I can control and not necessarily worried about the impossible or whatever obstacle that come my way as I pursued my passion.”


Since the constant power failure in  Nigeria exposed him to the beauties of stars, becoming an astronaut became a genuine dream even though it looked like a pipeline one.

His conviction was as visible and solid as a rock. He could see himself propelling towards the sky even when he had nothing to push himself.

“I was convinced that there is not a path that wasn’t possible even though I didn’t know back then, all the steps that were actually required to potentially be able to have a shot of being qualified as an astronaut which I did last year. But now it will take every four years. But basically, even from that very young age, I knew what I was going to be and knew what I was passionate about and just focused on the things I could control and just doing what’s cool.

With a resolution like this, he is bound to go far in the pursuance of his dream and this seems to have come to him the way he wanted it.

Abdulraheem has a fantastic academic record and if I want to exaggerate, I will say his academic feat was acquired with the speed of light.  In spring 2011, at the age of 18, he earned two bachelor’s degrees in astronomy and physics (honours) in three years from the University of Texas at Austin.


While Bello got his Bsc at 18, he focused on grabbing masters and doctoral degrees immediately as he obtained his PhD at 23  in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. 

As a researcher at the University of Texas at Arlington, he has worked on various projects including the operation of detonation driven hypersonic shock tunnel, developed a detonation engine power generator, and performed various gas dynamics studies for projects sponsored by fortune 500 companies.

Bello has plans for his fatherland and one of it is to reduce the noise of Generator sets in the country with alternative energy supply.

His Afthon startup which means “abundance” in Greek seems to be an apt name for his quest to develop detonation engines for power generation for third world countries.

We have looked at the entire scope. We actually looked at developing a piston power gen over based on this new tech.

And so, we looked at the Nigerian market with Afthton as well and we examined the potential of having these generators deployed in Nigeria. But the challenge is even with potential efficiencies and so on, the cost has opened and basically cost this technology to shift into a revived potential.


But the challenge is even with potential efficiencies and so on, the cost has opened and basically cost this technology to shift into a revived potential. Something that looks more like genetic verses your conventional piston generators that exist right now. This is because, realizing that there will be a divide, scale that has the right set of features in order to get the grid rightly connected into fully developed technology where it actually becomes the product.”

Power is a grandfather of the many problems facing Nigerians, and anything that would solve and reduce the noise pollution of the I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator sets in  Nigerian communities is a lofty and welcome idea but there is only one impediment.- POLITICS.

Nigeria plays politics with everything and this is why this young Nigerian thinks politics is the problem f Nigeria and not dearth of technological advancement.

“In Nigeria, I think the problems are more of politics and not technology. I don’t think a new technology is what Nigeria needs. The new technology sounds nice but it’s not really the problem at the moment. New technologies could be used here but it’s not the right solution for Nigeria’s problems because you can solve Nigeria’s problems with existing solutions.”

Irrespective of what someone decides to be or work on, it’s really about nurturing the person’s passion because I believe that you can be successful doing anything.

With this effort to solve a major problem, we hope to see his invention in Nigeria soon and we also hope politics would not stand on his way to deny us a sound night when we are parting ways with our noisy generator sets.


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