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Lighting

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Tapping Into the Darkside of Light

Darkside Scientific LumiLor
Darkside Scientific LumiLor

What will a revolution in lighting look like? New technologies are dramatically changing how we design, build, and maintain the built environment. But introducing an innovation to an established industry is no easy task, especially when you consider the complexity of larger systems. Lighting, for example, traditionally works in concert with wiring, fixtures and ballasts, light bulbs, and electricity. Launching a new standalone component is seldom adequate for a lighting technology to succeed. Developments in lighting have been received in the marketplace with tempered enthusiasm in recent years. While architects and lighting designers wish for better lighting, they are hesitant to be the early adopters. Client expectations in illumination quality, control, brightness, distribution, and efficiency are well established; it seems there is little tolerance for variance. Additionally, any change within an existing system requires a parallel adjustment in the support network and preparation of trained professionals to service the technology over time.

So let's consider how to get closer to the Naked Value of illumination. Is it possible to deliver light without light bulbs?

One pattern that we have observed in innovation is the translation of tools or technologies from one industrial sector to another. Darkside Scientific is a company that delivers light in the form of paint. The company's flagship product LumiLor is making light possible where it hasn’t been possible before. Darkside's patented electroluminescent coating system can be spray-painted on flat, curved, or uneven surfaces to turn nearly anything into a light. The technology does not emit light like conventional light sources. Its brightness per square area makes it ideal for many applications, including road signs, which are often over lit. LumiLor also has the potential to be the primary light source in bulbless lamps, accent lighting, and special effect or stage lighting. But this is just the beginning of how lighting is being redefined. Darkside is pursuing opportunities to lightweight airplanes, where any object can become a light source, meaning the elimination of current lighting infrastructure and subsequent weight and fuel savings.

Though the technology is still dependent on a wired electrical switch, it is not unrealistic to believe that DIY custom lights without wiring, fixtures, light bulbs or electricians are within our future. As lighting moves toward modular, flexible and structural integration, we will eventually see painted “light walls” designed into our homes and offices, saving resources that would otherwise be embedded in structures.

As technological problems are overcome, our imagination will remain as the single greatest limitation. We are excited to watch the lighting industry as the convergence of spray-on solar cells, spray-on batteries, and now spray-on light, make their way into our lives.

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Resource Fix: A luminaire made through additive manufacturing

Noted in the article “Big Advances, Small Packages” by Blaine Brownell in the May/June 2013 issue of Architectural Lighting magazine, LED and OLED advancements are breaking records for lumen per watt efficacy, while 3-D printing techniques are infiltrating the world of luminaire design.

Sydney-based SandFlora Lighting, for example, produces decorative luminaires using Selective Laser Sintering, an additive manufacturing process that generates very little material waste. The company’s first luminaires are inspired by the shape of a flower, an intricate geometric design made possible with the use of additive manufacturing. Production of its Waratah Pendant Luminaire uses 700 g of nylon, while generating just 10 g of waste. With additive manufacturing, SandFlora could also use its digital designs to print the luminaires close to markets, reducing resource use associated with transportation.

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Resource Fix: Precision in street lighting

Street lights have been a target for improvement among lighting experts for some time, and there are a number of approaches to improve their resource performance. One option is to focus on the energy use of the lamps themselves, replacing them with LEDs to increase efficiency. Another is to try to reduce the amount of resources tied up in the infrastructure associated with street lights. Phillips, for example, designed a "floating" street lighting system called FreeStreet, which consists of a series of LEDs connected via hanging cables, eliminating lampposts. And another approach has to do with precision. Lighting designers have used directional lamps and add-on devices to ensure that the light is directed downward.

Researchers at the National Central University in Taiwan and the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico are pursuing a new approach to precision. Their fixture contains a cluster of LEDs with a special lens that focuses the light rays so they’re parallel, rather than crossing over one another. The result of their design is light in a rectangular shape, offering a more precise match with the road surface that’s being lit. So, in addition to improving energy efficiency, the researchers have found a way to increase performance by using shape to get the light exactly where it’s needed.

For more technical details, you can read the research article published in Optics InfoBase. You can explore more on lighting at dMASS.net here.

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