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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
Inkodye is a chemical solution designed for people who are passionate about photography. After all, who else would want to emblazon a T-shirt, ribbon, or a handkerchief with images based on photo negatives? The process is reportedly quite easy, and requires just a dozen or so minutes of sunlight exposure. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
There’s no doubt that skylights make for psychologically-nicer buildings, while also reducing the amount of electricity required for daytime artificial lighting. If they let in too much sunlight, however, they can actually increase the amount of electricity needed for air conditioning. California-based EnFocus is attacking the situation from two ends – its Diamond-Power panels diffuse sunlight to keep interior heat down, while also harnessing it to create electricity. Read More
When he set out on a trip to Cambodia in 2008, Industrial Design student Jonathan Liow had no idea it was going to be a life-changing experience. Upon seeing the poverty and poor living conditions in that country, however, he decided that he wanted to build things that could help people. After hearing about the need for cheap and effective water purification in Africa, he proceeded to create the Solarball for his graduate project at Australia's Monash University. The ball is reportedly capable of producing 3 liters (about 3 quarts) of drinkable water per day, using nothing but polluted water and sunlight. Read More
When designing a vehicle’s interior, it’s essential to know what different colors, instrument layouts and lighting options will look like at different times of day. Certain shades of black, for instance, can look almost gray in bright sunlight, while instruments that are clearly visible at night may be subject to glare during the day. Since 2006, engineers at the Ford Motor Company have been using something called the Visual Performance Evaluation Lab (VPEL) to determine what the insides of their vehicles will look like at any time of day, under varying amounts of cloud cover. Read More
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