Join 3,374 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The future is looking brighter
March 9, 2007 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Hybrid solar lighting is here. Happier employees and spendier mall shoppers are on the horizon. HSL basics. Direct savings comes from reduced electrical demand during peak hours, reduced cooling costs of conventional lighting, and eliminating the heat and maintenance costs of skylights. Call for the price.
posted by Brian B. (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, what's your commission?
posted by davejay at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2007


I hope for the technology's sake that the guy from the Discovery video doesn't end up doing their commercials
posted by saraswati at 9:08 PM on March 9, 2007


So, what's your commission?

I get all the joy.
posted by Brian B. at 9:12 PM on March 9, 2007


Pepsi Bulb?
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2007


I hope for the technology's sake that the guy from the Discovery video doesn't end up doing their commercials

You mean the researcher guy? I thought he was pretty good.
posted by Brian B. at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2007


Call for the price.

So that means it's really affordable, right? No, wait, the other thing.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2007


Ok, that is really sweet. I'd love to have that in my house.
posted by Stunt at 9:21 PM on March 9, 2007


Awesome. I really hope this isn't ignored, because it seems like a sweet deal. I would love to have it in my dorm room, in the winter. It's just damn depressing with artificial lighting in there.

Also, LOL OMG WTF PEPSI BLUE! ORLY? ROFL.
/eye roll

posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:35 PM on March 9, 2007


They say it should be "less then $10,000". They're also selling this on a whole "Natural light is healthy" thing which I find hard to believe, and it sounds like it might not be exactly cost effective.

Assuming that the dish has about one square meter of surface area, at most transmit one kilowatt of light, that's a lot, especially when you consider how inefficient incandescent bulbs are, according to wikipedia it's just five percent meaning this thing, at the equator, could transmit as much light as three hundred 60 watt bulbs. Of course, that doesn't figure in the removal of ultraviolet and infrared light. The video claims to be able to replace about 64 60 watt bulbs, and that claim seems reasonable to me.

Still, the tech looks both simple and cheap to me. I can't imagine it costing that much once the patents expire, and it really is a brilliant idea.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on March 9, 2007


They say it should be "less then $10,000".

They actually said they hope to have a model soon that costs less than 10k. To me that sounds like a low-end version will be made available, as I don't see the full 127-strand sun-tracked 50-foot-range model coming in anywhere near 10k.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2007


They actually said they hope to have a model soon that costs less than 10k. To me that sounds like a low-end version will be made available, as I don't see the full 127-strand sun-tracked 50-foot-range model coming in anywhere near 10k.

Why not? I don't see why any of those components would really be that expensive. GPS is only a couple hundred bucks. A couple mirror, little plastic strands. I bet you could knock these out in Chinese factories pretty cheaply. The installation might be be the most expensive part. I don't know how much bulk optical fiber costs, but I would imagine it doesn't need to be as high quality as the stuff used for telecommunications.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on March 9, 2007


It costs so much because they are not mass producing them in large quantites by automation.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:00 PM on March 9, 2007


yet.
posted by andythebean at 11:01 PM on March 9, 2007


Luckily I work near a window. Much cheaper.
posted by stbalbach at 11:15 PM on March 9, 2007


If they are going to figure in the savings the costs of leaks that don't happen because the user-building is NOT employing a skylight, then it would only be fair to calculate into the energy savings the environmental cost of manufacturing the collector and its components. And the energy costs of transporting it. I mean, it woul only be fair.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:11 AM on March 10, 2007


The problems I see.

1) Wind. Tracking dish + wind = "hey, where's my dish". Large tracking dishes for RF applications use mesh, to reduce the wind profile, and have very heavy mounts.

2) Dirt on the collector will reduce efficiency.

3) The tracking motors are going to be the biggest failure. Everything else in the system just works -- the reflectors reflect, the light pipes will pipe light. The tracker is active, it needs to follow the sun. Making the electronics work isn't hard, but making the motors reliable will take some effort.

4) Mass on the roof. Heavy means the tracker is harder to move (making point 3 harder), lighter means that the mass-area ratio drops, making point 1 harder. If you drop that ratio low enough, you don't have a tracker, you have a kite.

The big reason for the tracker/parabolic mirror combo is it makes the light injection problem easy.

It does look cool. It does look like a way to get daylight into parts of your home that wouldn't get it. Of course, the time I really want 1KW of light is at night....

I can't imagine it costing that much once the patents expire

I don't see a valid patent there. Fiber optics aren't new, tracking optics aren't new, parabolic antennas for EM radiation aren't new, and they've all been put together in various ways. Indeed, they've been put together in this exact combination in astronomical research, see the Sloan Digital Sky Survey taking 300 spectrographs at once using a drilled plate with fibre optics. All the elements are there, the only difference is the fiber optics are larger, the reflector is smaller, and we only point it at one star, not billions of them.
posted by eriko at 6:35 AM on March 10, 2007


This has been around for years, at least in idea.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:59 AM on March 10, 2007


Luckily I work near a window. Much cheaper.

This is probably true if the window is thermally efficient.

What I find interesting about this technology is that it is erasing the boundary of sunlight and building and entering into a development phase that will provide more innovations. Electrical generation and water heating will be next. The health benefits will be a boon, because the negative effects of cheap lighting have been ignored as the cost of doing business. It will also allow the development of energy efficient underground space.

If they are going to figure in the savings the costs of leaks that don't happen because the user-building is NOT employing a skylight, then it would only be fair to calculate into the energy savings the environmental cost of manufacturing the collector and its components. And the energy costs of transporting it. I mean, it woul only be fair.

Multiple skylights are rather expensive to install and maintain from the elements, regardless of energy, and at night they are more than useless energy leaks, but security risks. Difficult to calculate, but still not an issue of fairness when it comes to the bottom line.
posted by Brian B. at 7:42 AM on March 10, 2007


The problems I see.

I am just outside of Phoenix. Everyone I know that could afford one, lives in a neighborhood with an association. Sticking the giant dish on your roof would not be permitted.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2007


Mr Zero, I think that it is only targeted for commercial development anyway, like a warehouse with very large energy bills during peak hours.
posted by Brian B. at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2007


Dumbass comment: I thought it was cute of the cheeky bastards at Discovery to actually change the lighting at the end of the clip as the guy was talking about how the sun's light changes throughout the day.
posted by chrominance at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2007


The wind profile could be solved by distributing the collection work to many small mirrors each serving a couple of cables. Alternately, there's really no need to have a single large precision mirror. One could focus several small mirrors onto a single collector.
posted by odinsdream at 10:47 AM on March 10, 2007


odinsdream: You just increased the number of sensors, motors, and breakable parts... there's always a tradeoff.
posted by anthill at 12:48 PM on March 10, 2007


Yikes, that looks crazy expensive: Your lighting fixture, which normally costs $20, now relies on a computer controlled sun-tracker! Still, the energy savings and light quality would be worthwhile if I was trying to market my business as concerned about the environment and employee health. (Think the Body Shop, or Mountain Equipment Co-op).

You can tell they're shopping for investors though. "We're looking into using our technology for Hydrogen Production". Heheh, sure you are.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:49 PM on March 10, 2007


What the fuck are you nerds talking out your buttocks about, now? GPS? Computer controlled trackers? Look, you're not trying to transcieve in a Ku beam to a tiny little satellite all the way up on L5.

This technology has been around for years. It doesn't use GPS or a CPU. It's called a heliostat. Seriously, it's like you never paid attention to those Edmund Scientific catalogs or something.

You see, the thing about the sun is that it's this giant, insanely hot ball of fire. Really, it's huge, and really bright and hot. Therefore, because the sun puts out this insanely large amount of light and heat - making it easy to detect with even the crudest, most basic homemade or protean instrumentation through a rudimentary optical/geometric principle known as parallax you can quite precisely track said giant ball of fire with very basic electromechanical - and sometimes purely mechanical systems. Without computers. Or GPS.

Besides, consumer GPS is ludicrously terrible for direction-finding, particularly in non-moving, static locations. And nonconsumer, milspec or surveyor grade GPSII/WAIS recievers aren't "a few hundred bucks" but "tens of thousands". Every consumer GPS I've used has been as innaccurate as much as 45 degrees from known magnetic north, especially when holding still. It is *not* a compass, it is a location-grid-beacon system. If you try to rely on a GPS for compass bearings while on a backcountry hike, you deserve to be eaten alive by bears or wild zombie James Kims.


Also, the photonic-collector to fiber-network and emitter isn't a new idea at all. I'd be surprised if he was issued any new patents for the design. There's a building in Japan that was actually using a system like this back in the 80s. It's been a favorite idea of mine for years, now.

My version of the idea is much better, anyway.

Instead of a reflector and a heliostat is uses special CAD-designed fresnel-like lenticular lenses which passively guide the sun to the fiber-collectors, no matter which angle the sun is coming from. If it helps, imagine a weird looking fresnel lens with many odd looking microscopic arc-shaped "cells" which "tracked" the suns path by virtue of being designed to gather light from a specfic band of inclination and azimuth values and reflect/refract it down into the fiber optics collectors. You dig? Millions of microscopic, parabolic, arc-shaped Fresnel or lenticular ridges molded into plastic or glass.

In my design the lenses are north oriented, so if the planet suddenly flipped around, you'd have to re-orient them "north", but other than that, no problems. No moving parts. Just hose off the lenses occasionally.

There are already similar, less intelligent systems on the market which don't use tracking, and make use of regular, plain old Fresnel concentrators. Mine requires a redesign of the Fresnel/lenticular lens topographies, but it'd be easy to do with a raytracer and modern, dynamic optics modeling system. This is routine optical design work these days - the headlamps in modern cars are modelled and designed using similar raytracing, optical and photonic modelling packages.

One of these days someone smart will hire me for their think tank. Some day.
posted by loquacious at 3:54 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


A pure-mechanical system sounds best. Couple of magnifying lenses, couple of bimetal strips... gotta be a way to make it possible to automagically point toward the sun.

Here's plans for a simple solar motor. Need two styro cups, a pencil, paperclips, and a heavy-duty black-black trash bag. Cut strips ~1cm wide from bag. Stack cups bottom-outside to bottom-outside. Piece through center with pencil, then pull away from each other ~2". Adhere strips to outside cup edges, so as to form "prison bars" parallel to the pencil. Place pencil ends on paperclip stand, so the mechanism is horizontal and can spin freely. Place in sun.

The bags shrink when exposed to strong sunlight. This wobbles the cups toward the sun, shifting the CoG, causing the mechanism to rotate. Repeat as long as the sun shines.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:31 PM on March 10, 2007


What the fuck are you nerds talking out your buttocks about, now? GPS? Computer controlled trackers?

Maybe because, oh I don't know, the damn guy in the video that invented this thing said it uses GPS for tracking.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:42 PM on March 10, 2007


eriko writes "1) Wind. Tracking dish + wind = 'hey, where's my dish'. Large tracking dishes for RF applications use mesh, to reduce the wind profile, and have very heavy mounts. "

BUDs solved these problems in the 70s, perfectly adequate 6' dishes were often solid aluminium.

Mr_Zero writes "Everyone I know that could afford one, lives in a neighborhood with an association. Sticking the giant dish on your roof would not be permitted."

This on the other hand is a serious problem. The feds need to step in and make it illegal to restrict sun collectors of any kind in the same way it's illegal to restrict ham towers unless they are a hazard to navigation.

On tracking: $35 ($23 if you want to wield the iron) will buy you a electronic 2 axis tracker, (warning: silly large page with great number of images) just add motors. Just about any exterior or explosion proof gear head motor large enough will do the tracking job for a very long time. Remember the duty cycle is 1/day so super heavy duty isn't required.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe because, oh I don't know, the damn guy in the video that invented this thing said it uses GPS for tracking.

Oh, well color me and that damn guy stupid. I couldn't actually finish watching the video. Why the fuck is he using GPS to run a heliostat? Does he have the brainworms?
posted by loquacious at 8:14 PM on March 10, 2007


Does he have the brainworms?

He might be an alien.
posted by Brian B. at 8:21 PM on March 10, 2007


explosion proof gear head motor

[looks suspiciously at his blender...]

I should hope most gear head motors don't explode. My life would become a whole lot more dangerous if they were.

I think I'll quit using my Braun toothbrush anyway. I don't like the chances.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 PM on March 10, 2007


1) Wind. Tracking dish + wind = "hey, where's my dish". Large tracking dishes for RF applications use mesh, to reduce the wind profile, and have very heavy mounts.


You could put a giant plastic sphere over the whole thing to protect it from wind.
posted by delmoi at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2007


Oh, well color me and that damn guy stupid. I couldn't actually finish watching the video. Why the fuck is he using GPS to run a heliostat? Does he have the brainworms?

The thing costs $10k, and a GPS chip is what, $200? put in a GPS and you don't have to worry about entering in your time and/or coordinates.
posted by delmoi at 2:47 PM on March 11, 2007


Metafilter: ludicrously terrible for direction-finding, particularly in non-moving, static locations.
posted by illovich at 4:11 PM on March 11, 2007


« Older Animated Exercise Examples courtesy The Training S...  |  Three chords and four noble tr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments