Focus on a bright future

Most of us in the northern hemisphere have been trying to find light and warmth during the last few months. Having seen that light is so important to design that we can think of it as almost a material in itself, we’re taking a closer look at how light is influencing our designed world, in particular how we can harvest its energy.

Light powers our biosphere and helps keep us warm and healthy. How we get it to perform in ways we need is another ball game.

Specifically, using light for energy production is a key feature. In this article, we’re looking at directional lighting and how clever material use can help us generate energy with it.

Simple optics such as Fresnel lenses focus light into a uniform direction. This means that light-gathering can be optimised. The ‘Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade’ (ICSF) Works on this principle. It’s been in development at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology at SyracuseUniversity.

The idea is to integrate such solar concentrators into large façade elements, helping to warm and light buildings naturally.

Directing light is also the focus of the next project, but for a different reason. An intriguing looking transparent ball is part of a clever lighting system for charging solar panels. It’s an invention by architect André Broessel.

Working like a huge, multi-directional lens, the transparent ball focuses light from a huge angle into a tiny beam, and onto a small solar panel. Due to the small size of the photovoltaic cell, it is relatively cheap. Another advantage is the near constant source of free electricity.

The larger the ball, the more light it collects. The full-size mock-up will even work at night-time, using only the moon’s light.

While the large Perspex ball is the most obvious element in the exotic looking device, the key technology is a computerised tracking system that follows the sun’s path, constantly making sure that as much light is focused on the tiny panel as possible. This means a huge improvement in solar efficiency.

A working scale model has been constructed of the ball as a cell-phone charger, and this bodes well for the next generation of lighting and lighting devices. Here is the inventor’s look at the idea.

These are just a few examples. We know that there is much to be done regarding lighting and energy-collection. Luckily, more and more innovators are picking up the pace and doing their part. So the future looks very bright indeed!


  1. Dragos Dinu says:

    Very nice ideea indeed!

    I would like to know the cost of the whole system for about 50 square meters on a existing curtain facade.

  2. aarnoud eversdijk says:

    very bright idea