What if you could turn on the sun when and where you wanted? Lighting pioneers at a company called CoeLux developed an artificial light that accurately simulates natural sunshine. Stunningly realistic, the technology can replicate light hues and intensities of specific regions, including Mediterranean, Tropical and Nordic. Since winning the Lux Awards 2014 Light Source Innovation of the Year, Coelux has moved from prototype to installation.
It all began as a research project under Paolo Di Trapani, a professor at Insubria University in Como, Italy who spent over a decade working on the system. Extensive 3D modeling preceded prototypes, controlled testing, production and live demonstrations. “The objective included further developments of the existing Maxwell Render software functionality to include light scattering properties, light polarization effects, custom spectrum data (through spectrum curves or raw data) and light spectrum measurements, by including a virtual spectrophotometer,” Di Trapani said in a press release.
The high-tech skylight uses an LED projector to emit white light in a spectrum that mimics sunlight. A sophisticated optical system replicates the natural perception of distance between the sun and sky, with qualities of infinite depth. It shows the changing sky positions of the sun, replicating the natural process known as Rayleigh scattering (that causes diffuse sky radiation in Earth’s atmosphere, making sky clue and sunshine yellow ) within just a few millimeters of surface space coated with nanoparticles.
Coelux designers are also working on advanced features including simulated daytime sequences (as example, sunrise and sunset) and color variations to reflect different weather conditions.
Note: the photographs accompanying this story are real and not manipulated.
In the Middle East, awash in near constant intense daylight, blocking heat gain and glare are primary architectural problems. But in areas lacking electricity, or in crowded old-town structures, achieving consistent light levels requires mechanical help.
Access to natural daylight is an increasingly valued aspect of green building design. Architects have devised solutions to funnel real daylight deep within built spaces, or reflect natural light from outdoors, but no approach has successfully captured natural light refraction processes.
Coelux technology can reproduce natural light in all types of interior space where it can not otherwise exist. Underground parking and mass transit hubs can now be infused with ersatz daylight. Large-scale facilities such as airports, shopping malls, office towers, and hotels can all be fitted out with sky-views. The system can replace natural light in places where weather dims the sun’s rays or where daylight hours are short.
CoeLux can change the way we experience windowless spaces. The unit is comparable in size to a standard skylight, and when mounted into a wall or ceiling has the convincing appearance of a traditional daylight source.
The company sees opportunities in areas like healthcare and elder care facilities where it may not be possible to put occupants near real windows; the Gamma Knife Radiosurgery department at Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan installed a unit. The light has a positive psychological and physiological effect on patients, reducing the anxiety one feels when closed in; underground or in windowless areas.
The skylights can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, dependent upon specific design features, but CoeLux aims to significantly cut prices through scale of production. CEO Di Trapani has likened his invention to the elevator, which transformed the shapes of buildings. What happens to the built environment when we can throw windows out the window?
Images from CoeLux website