Bright idea lights up the room

A system that can funnel daylight into the darkest recesses of any building was among the cutting edge technologies on display at a major trade show this week.

The mirrored dish drew the crowds at the Nemex show in Birmingham’s NEC and marketing company Hybrid Lighting talked edie through the innovation.

Sunlight is channelled into a bundle of fibre optic cables which filter out harmful UV light and unwanted infrared, carrying pure sunlight into once-gloomy rooms.

“It’s a new development from the States,” Roger Boaden, technical director for Hybrid Lighting told edie.

“This is so new they only have about 15 up and running over there and they are about a year ahead of us in terms of development.

“It concentrates sunlight by up to 600 times and takes natural sunlight down a bundle of fibre optics.

“Once it arrives where the light is wanted we can either get it to light a diffuser rod that looks like a fluorescent tube or have a spotlight effect from the ends of the fibre optics.

“We call it a hybrid light because the electric lights in the building will have dimmers on them and adjust themselves according to how much sunlight the system is getting, so it makes the most efficient use what is naturally available.”

The dish is fitted with GPS system that allows it to track the passage of the sun through the sky so it will face the optimum direction at any one time.

“It’s really a commercial product designed for educational institutions, retail premises or offices,” said Mr Boaden.

“It can light up to 1,000m2 so you are looking at larger buildings.”

Larger dishes are already under development and smaller, domestic versions are likely to follow if it proves a commercial success.

The UK firm’s first unit is being installed in an education centre for people with learning difficulties in Cleveland.

As well as the obvious energy efficiency benefits over hard-to-insulate glass windows and its ability to channel sunlight to areas it otherwise could not reach, the marketers believe the system has potential psychological benefits too.

David Williams, managing director of Hybrid Lighting, told edie:”There’s a lot of evidence that says people respond better when they are in an environment with plenty of natural light.

“Humans are designed to work at their best in daylight hours. Research in America has shown that students get increased test scores and in a business environment people are more alert and there is less absenteeism when they get more sunlight.

“We know the effects of a lack of sunlight – things like SAD syndrome, and they say the reverse is true – that people benefit from exposure to sunlight.”

“It’s currently in a test phase – it’s been developed by the US Department of Energy and most of their data comes from tests in the mid-southern States, which is obviously quite a different latitude to us.

“We’re actively seeking test partners in the Northern Europe and we’re offering a subsidised package – we’ll install the unit for a fixed cost and then track its performance.

The company is currently working with two universities, one is doing the energy study while the other is carrying out a health and well-being study at the psychological and physiological effects.

Anybody interested in more information will soon be able to find technical details on the Hybrid Lighting website.

Sam Bond

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