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Sunlight

Environment

The Sunflower focuses sunlight where you want it

Some people have a cool, gloomy room in their house that receives little if any direct sunlight, even though it has a window. Should you be one of those people, and you want to save electricity, perhaps a home heliostat is what you need. Heliostats are motorized mirrored devices that move to compensate for the changing angle of the Sun as it moves across the sky, reflecting its rays onto a fixed target such as a window, photovoltaic panel, or solar oven. While almost all commercially-available heliostats are aimed at industrial users, Massachusetts-based company Wikoda is now offering what it claims is the world's only heliostat designed and priced for residential use.Read More

Environment

Photovoltaic nanoshell "whispering galleries" trap light for more efficient solar cells

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “whispering gallery” is a round room designed in such a way that sound is carried around its perimeter – this allows a person standing on one side to hear words whispered by a person on the other. Now, scientists from Stanford University have developed a new type of photovoltaic material, that essentially does for sunlight what whispering galleries do for sound. Not only does the material have a structure that circulates light entering it, but it could also result in cheaper, less fragile, and less angle-sensitive solar panels.Read More

Architecture

Smart and stunning "Garden and the Tower" concept wins OIC headquarters competition

"Garden and the Tower" is Atelier Thomas Pucher's winning design for the headquarters of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to be built in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The design is envisaged as "a global sign, made of light." The tower, very much the centerpiece of the design, will have a textile skin which, if we understand the design intent, will not only let sunlight and daylight in by day (an environmentally friendly way of illuminating the interior) but intentionally let artificial light out by night, to dramatic effect should the visualizations prove remotely accurate. The designers' approach to managing heat gain suggests that there's beauty in the function too.Read More

Science

Treated cotton cleans itself when exposed to sunlight

For some time now, we’ve been hearing about the benefits of drying our laundry outside on the clothesline. We save money and energy by not running the dryer, the sunlight kills germs, and we don’t run the risk of generating harmful dryer emissions. In the future, however, we might also end up washing our clothes by hanging them outside – scientists in China have successfully used sunlight to remove orange dye stains from cotton fabric, that was treated with a special coating.Read More

Aircraft

Using solar power to keep runways ice-free

When it comes to keeping airport runways clear of ice, there are several options, including the use of chemical, thermal, electric and microwave technologies. All of these methods can be expensive, as they require either a considerable amount of electricity, or a number of human workers. Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas, however, are developing a new system that would use the freely-available power of the Sun to keep runways from freezing up.Read More

Health & Wellbeing

You can take your light therapy, and stick it in your ear

Many readers in the Northern Hemisphere are likely already starting to experience seasonal affective disorder, appropriately enough known as SAD. For those people fortunate enough not to be familiar with it, SAD is a mood disorder that is brought on by the shorter day-length experienced in winter – less sunlight results in gloomier people. One of the most common treatments involves regular exposure to bright artificial lights, that appear to psychologically serve the same purpose as sunlight. Now, one might assume that such light therapy would require that people see the light. According to the Finnish designers of the Valkee device, however, light also does the trick if you shine it up your ears.Read More

Mobile Technology

Quirky's Ray solar charger with suction cup goes up for pre-order

Designers of solar chargers need to deal with a certain issue: how to build a charger so that it had easy access to maximum sunlight, without much effort on the user's part. One clever solution was to combine solar cells with a bikini, but unfortunately that's really only useful on the beach. The Quirky community, a social project based around product development, has come up with another solution – it's the Ray solar charger, and it features a suction cup and a kickstand.Read More

Environment

New 'smart windows' said to outperform previous efforts

Dimmable windows, in one form or another, have been with us for several years now. We’ve seen examples such as the manually-adjustable SPD-Smart motorcoach windows, the energy-harvesting Smart Energy Glass product, and the RavenWindow, which darkens or lightens according to the outside temperature. According to researchers from Korea’s Soongsil University and Korea Electronics Technology Institute, however, such windows can be expensive, don’t work properly for long enough, and require toxic substances in their manufacturing process. The team claims to have developed a system of their own, that has none of these drawbacks.Read More

Good Thinking

Social project uses pop bottles to provide indoor lighting for the poor

Perhaps you’ve performed that old camping trick before, where you created a lantern by shining a flashlight into a water-filled bottle. While that may have helped you find your marshmallows in the dark, imagine how much brighter that bottle would have been if it were lit directly by the Sun. Bright enough, it turns out, that it could brilliantly light up the interior of a one-room house. That’s the idea behind the Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light) project – it’s bringing daytime indoor lighting to the homes of the poor in the Philippines, by installing water-filled plastic pop bottles through holes in their roofs.Read More

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