Fibre Optics for Lighting
Daylighting is an art of architectural lighting in which efforts are made to design the largest light source in our collective reality (the sun, obviously) as an effective source of light into a building. Is that an exact definition? No. Does it seems like a common sense practice? Of course! People have been doing it for about, well, since the advent of people. “How do I get some light into this ol’ shack made of sticks and leaves and still stay dry when it rains?” It’s a common issue throughout history – clerestory windows, light collectors, reflecting panels, diffusion lenses, sawtooth roofs, skylights – all devices and concepts developed to use sun for interior lighting.
Sunlight is a light source that, if you think about it for a moment, is good on many, many levels. That feels like a very obvious thing to say, but it’s true! Sunlight makes the plants grow, sunlight is everywhere for a decent portion of the day, sunlight feeds us Vitamin D – and most importantly, it’s free and available!
My wife and I lived in Dallas a few years ago, and in our kitchen we had a SolaTube – a sunlight pipe that fed directly into the center of the kitchen. It was situated on the rear of the house, and it got sun for about 12-15 hours every day. Even on rainy, overcast days the sunlight pipe provided sunlight. We always hung out in the kitchen – the light was nice, it was healthy. It had such high color rendering and provided detail. Food was beautiful!
Adding a SolaTube to a room doesn’t constitute Daylighting, and I certainly would not and do not assume so – I have a high level of respect for Daylighting designers, as they can really change our environments. But the idea of pumping in some sunlight via simple technology is a smart idea – an efficient idea. I was doing some research on the topic of Daylighting for a post or two, and in addition to SolaTubes and other sunlight pipe systems, I found some other interesting ways to use sunlight for interior lighting.
The fiber optic approach:
A Swedish company called Parans developed a fiber optic method of piping the sunlight collected on top of the roof of wherever the system is installed – hospitals, schools, museums, laboratories, and anywhere that you need light. The system uses a series of fiber optic wires to run sunlight throughout whatever space in which it’s installed. Even if you weren’t using the sun as the main lighting source in a fiber optic system, you could put the source in a place that would give you easy and quick access in the event that you have to change a lamp in the system.
Another company that is using fiber optics to send sunlight all over the interior of a building is Sunlight Direct. Sunlight Direct uses a Hybrid Solar Lighting system to collect sunlight as a lighting source – a device is mounted on the roof that consists of a parabolic mirror that focuses as much sunlight as possible into a photovoltaic cell. The Sunlight Direct system maintains lighting levels inside your house as the light level changes during the day.
Another company, Neues Licht, also produced a fiber optic system that has a beautiful form as well as an efficient function – it’s called the UFO Chandelier:
Neues Licht’s system is not solar powered, it is completely artificial. However, the system is designed to tuck away the light source – to hide it in a closet, or an attic, or wherever else you might think to stash it so you can get to it in a hurry. Can you imagine, however, if Neues Licht did make it solar, or provided a solar option? Below is a cool photograph of the UFO Chandelier underwater in an aquarium – no electricity flowing through the lines, only light – so you can put it wherever you want!
I think that’s about enough rambling on the goodness of solar power for now.