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Power Hardware

Fiber Optics Bring the Sun Indoors 377

Posted by Hemos
from the the-sun'll-come-out-tomorrow dept.
Sterling D. Allan writes "Fiber optics transmit light, so why not take the light from outside and transmit it inside? According to an exclusive story at PESN, that is what Tennessee company, Sunlight Direct, is now doing. Their 4-foot-diameter solar dish will light 1000 square feet inside -- minus the harmful UV rays -- rendering a more natural lighting feel, which can be hybridized with florescent and possibly LED lighting to provide a constant light level, though the tone changes with the level of light outside. The GPS-based sun-tracking mechanism uses very little energy. Now you can save electricity, cut on heat emissions by incandescent, and improve the feel of your work environment. Beta testing began in June. Product expected in the market in 2007."
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Fiber Optics Bring the Sun Indoors

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  • no (Score:5, Funny)

    by fmobus (831767) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:05AM (#13182899)
    we don't need light in our basements!! FP?
    • This is new? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tehrasha (624164)
      I could swear I remember a TV news report from the late 80s early 90s where this was being done in one of the new skyscrapers in Japan.
      • Re:This is new? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Baby Duck (176251)
        Yes, the Japanese called this "piped sunlight" and was featured on the early 80s TV show "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" hosted by Jack Palance.

        It was also used to grow gargantuan tomato plants. Like bigger than twice my house.
        • Re:This is new? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Baby Duck (176251)

          Ah, yes, I should have googled this first.

          Particularly interesting experiments were conducted by the late Dr. Kei Mori of Kao University in Tokyo. Dr. Mori raised plants under special light that filtered out IR and UV radiation. His unique process of fiberoptic sunlight collection and transmission, called "Himawari Sunlighting", is now marketed worldwide. At first Mori feared the filtered light would be detrimental. But after extensive experiments he claimed it could promote healing and "because the ultr

    • Re:no (Score:5, Funny)

      by chiok (858005) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @04:13AM (#13183716)
      I think you meant "we don't need light in our parents' basements!!" This is slashdot after all.
  • Very cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JasonBee (622390) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:06AM (#13182901) Homepage
    In the Australian interior (Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge) they build many homes undergound...thsi kinds of thing would be perfect. Natural air conditioning and natural light sources.
  • Old News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sakusha (441986) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:07AM (#13182912)
    The Ark Mori Building in Tokyo had a fiber optic solar light distribution system installed something like 10 years ago. I remember seeing a video of the system. It's been out for 10 years, but nobody did anything to follow it. My conclusion: it's worthless.
    • Re:Old News (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plover (150551) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:31AM (#13183059) Homepage Journal
      There's also a "more traditional" system that I've been seeing at the Home and Garden shows for a few years now. It's a small (about 8" diameter) clear dome 'skylight' mounted in the roof. It caps an ordinary round sheet metal duct that leads straight down into the home. The ductwork is lined with a reflective mylar sheet, making it a mirrored pipe. The inside end is pointed at a translucent diffuser. From inside the house, it looks like an ordinary recessed can light.

      Ultra low tech (no fibers) but it produces very nicely colored light in an interior room. I thought they were too pricey, though. Then I saw this article, where they want $8000! Wow.

      • Recently put something cheaper in my house. It's just a regular window in the roof. we call it a skylight. well, isn't a regular window but it works just as well and is easier to install
      • Re:Old News (Score:5, Informative)

        by pchan- (118053) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:35AM (#13183299) Journal
        My parents have one of these in their kitchen. Works very well, actually, and the light is very white and pleasant. This is much better than a skylight for several reasons. The first is that the light is not directional, but very diffuse, giving good light all over. Second, you don't really have to clean the dome. Third, it goes through your insulation, and is sealed at both ends, keeping a decent separation of you from the hot/cold. Finally, it's pretty small and easy to install yourself if you're handy with a caulk gun. I'd definitely get one of these if I had a house.

        I've seen the Mori Building solar collectors (on TV). The idea was that they could transport natural light into areas of the building that are not near windows, and that sunlight seems to make people happier. And they didn't need GPS to do it because the sun is, y'know, fairly predicable.
      • Re:Old News (Score:5, Informative)

        by starfishsystems (834319) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:49AM (#13183334) Homepage
        Ordinary reflective materials like mylar are quite lossy. That's not a big problem when the light path is fairly straight and only a few meters long, which I expect would be true in many residential applications. But if you want to go long distances or direct a lot of light energy around corners, you would need more efficient transmission.

        But you're right that light fibers aren't exactly big news for illumination. And they're not the only medium with low transmission losses, either. About 20 years ago, a friend of mine started up a company called TIR Systems [tirsys.com] to commercialize a light pipe technology that he developed in grad school. It works approximately like optical fiber but the prism light guide is much larger, and also requires less elaborate manufacture. The early materials that I saw were pressed out of large slabs of acrylic or something. At any rate, it seems much better suited to architectural application than bundles of optical fiber. And that's old news too.

    • Re:Old News (Score:4, Informative)

      by sirket (60694) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:06AM (#13183200)
      It's not worthless. The system works amazingly well. The problem? Cost. Fiber optics and installation were not cheap- at least when the Ark Mori building was built. These days however? Costs have plummeted and energy costs have risen. It is an ideal time for this system to make a comeback. And the light quality? Amazing from what I heard from a friend who visited the building while she was working in Japan.

      -sirket
    • Well... Dunno about fiber optics, similar non-fiber optics systems have been around for a while. I recall seeing blueprints and formulae for the design of a duct based system like this sometimes around 1985. Some russian magazine, do not remember the name off the top of my head.
    • Re:Old News (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ray Radlein (711289) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @03:23AM (#13183613) Homepage
      Never mind newcomers to the concept like the Aki Mori Buidling; if you want a real "Old News" version of it, look no further than Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Heqadquarters [wikipedia.org], finished in 1939, which used Pyrex tubes to bring light inside the building [bc.edu].

      Of course, as (almost) always, Wright's vision was just a wee bit ahead of the materials science of the day; the whole setup used to leak like crazy. But what the hell -- it sure was gangbusters back in 1939, when the future was invented.

  • by helioquake (841463) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:08AM (#13182919) Journal
    A guy who works at "Pure Energy System" posts exclusive article posted on PESN (Pure Energy System News)? Isn't that the same as a free ad?

    Not that anything wrong with that...

    • It's a free ad. With that in mind, read the submission again-- and it is REALLY obvious that it's a free ad.

      I mean, it's cool technology and all, but Slashdot doesn't need to duplicate the functions of the PR Newswire...


      • And you're surprised?

        We're seeing duplicated stories which appear on the same edition[1], this is not the first time the contributor has had a direct connection to the news source (in very recent history).

        It's time for a new round of elections and vote out some of the schmoos who aren't doing their jobs very well.

        I mean, come on, folks, proofreading and fact-checking before making the stuff public is not rocket science. I've worked as a technical editor, I read six newspapers daily, dozens of [real
    • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:25AM (#13183030) Homepage Journal
      Not to bash this solar lighting system or anything, but the author [pureenergysystems.com] of the article [pesn.com] is a bit of a nutcase-- she wrote a whole article about how we're all doomed because of the impending Magnetic Field Revesal [pureenergysystems.com], and another article [pureenergysystems.com] about a scientist was killed in a conspiratorial fashion because of his "new energy" discoveries, which apparently came from space aliens.

      So take this article with a big grain of alien-free salt.
      • Mary-Sue Haliburton?

        EnronHaliburton2004, are you related? Say ain't so!
      • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:07AM (#13183205)
        she wrote a whole article about how we're all doomed because of the impending Magnetic Field Revesal

        a)the earth's magnetic field does reverse every so often, b)we're overdue (by a huge margin) and c)we probably would be slightly fucked, because during the flip, we'd have no protection from cosmic and solar radiation.

        NOVA [pbs.org]

        Wikipedia Article on Geomagnetic Reversal [wikipedia.org]

        As for the aliens- yep, she's off her rocker on that one, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @02:53AM (#13183536) Homepage Journal
          Sure, the field will reverse some day. But what does that have to do with alternative energy sources?

          I can prepare for Magnetic Field Reversal like I can prepare for a really big comet-earth collision. I'd rather focus on the more likely tangable problems.

          In my experience, Magnetic Field Reversal is a story mostly used by crackpots to sell survival equipment.

          I went to College with people who fled to the hills to prepare for the eventual Magnetic Field Reversal-- that was supposed to happen around year 2000 (I told them that magnets don't follow the Christian calendar) Now it hasn't happened, so they moved the date to 2012, which is a signifigant date on the Mayan calendar.

          In High School, I knew people who stocked up on supplies to prepare for Revelations, which they thought would start in 1996.

          I'm not kidding.
        • c)we probably would be slightly fucked, because during the flip, we'd have no protection from cosmic and solar radiation.

          Maybe not [newscientist.com].

        • One can pretty much conclusivly say that we aren't that fucked - why you ask? Well, it has happened so many times in the Earths history (while we had life on the planet) that if we are "fucked" we wouldn't be here discussing it.

          This reminds me of what we were taught in middle school and high school (I graduated in 1993). That the entire lifecycle of many plants were dependant on the honey bee to polenate and continue to breed in a diverse enough fashion to live. If they died off then the plants couldn't breed, plants would die, oxygen would not be produced, and we would all die, or at least become a desert as the plants couldn't breed. Now, since we still had honey bees I couldn't say this was wrong, though I figured that if the entire ecosystem depended on a single species we wouldn't have made it to now and was quite sceptical.

          Well, in about 2000 there was a mutation in some type of bacteria that pretty much eliminated the honey bee in a large part of the south east US (just now recovering from it somewhat, since 2000 I've seen less than 10 honey bees, 6 of them this year - typically we would not really want to walk barefoot for fear of stepping on them). Now, since I am still sitting here typing this I can assure you that all of our plants didn't die. Since I still see plenty of clover and flowers I can figure that the whole world didn't depend on the life of the honey bee. Seems we were either lied too or thier research was vastly flawed.

          I highly suspect (but because it hasn't occured I can't say for sure) that an event that has happened thousands upon thousands of times will not cause the total collapse of the entire ecosytem and mass destruction (unless, of course, you can show it did everytime this occured).

          Personally I wouldn't worry about it too much even were it to happen in our lifetime, but what ever floats your boat I guess. Maybe I'm wrong and this time the timid ant-mouse (or whatever species, genus, or family is key) will die off and that is the key to our entire ecosystem and we will all die. I can't say you are wrong until that event happens, until then I will look to the past and be reassured.
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @03:02AM (#13183570) Homepage Journal
      " Isn't that the same as a free ad?"

      Funny how this question didn't come up while Slashdot was ooo'ing and aaah'ing over the Serenity teaser.
  • by porksoda (253218) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:09AM (#13182920) Homepage
    now slap some fucking soil and grass and trees on those concrete roofs and we're in business.
  • by soward (6325)
    This doesn't seem that new. Folx have had large-scale "fibre optic" types of skylights that can reach to basements and other areas for quite some time. I think they are even available at Home Depot.

    www.solartube.com comes to mind right off the bat...
  • by sootman (158191)
    I don't remmber where I saw it, but I saw a system like this on TV about 10 years ago. I mean, these guys might be the first to do it comercially, or cheaply, but the idea has been around for ages. I'm sure a slashdot reader somewhere works in a facility that already has something like this in place?
  • Skylights are nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:10AM (#13182931)
    Even when raining, the outdoor light feels much more comfortable and natural than indoor incandescent lightbulbs. I imagine the idea has been around since Gog the Hut Thatcher fell through one of his creations and the hut owners just left the hole in the roof.

    Nowadays, they've got a nice system where the light is guided through a reflective tube that can be directed to any room in the house.

    http://www.solatube.com/ [solatube.com]

    It was only natural that the techonology would progress to where we are splitting the sunshine into fiber optics and redirecting them all over the house. However, 2007 is a pretty long way off for what seems to be a relatively simple application of existing technologies.
    • I'm guessing the reason is lots of testing needs to be done to get all the lighting levels right. I mean for this to be something people will like, it's got to be able to balance with atrifical light quite quickly and smoothly. Nobody is going to accept this if light levels severly fluctuate every time a cloud passes overhead. It needs to be able to provide fairly consistent light in all conditions.
      • by Baddas (243852)
        I live in a house with extensive skylighting, and that's not nearly as true as you'd think.

        Our eyes are adapted for changing light conditions. You barely even notice whether the sun is bright or dim, within reason. Certainly on a bright day, I'm not always flipping the lights on and off as the clouds pass overhead; on dim days, even overcast light is enough to make a substantial difference.

        In my opinion, a pretty simple photodiode would be enough. A binary check of "Is the light level above xxxx lumens?" wo
    • At work, I was recently moved under skylights. I hated it. It was way too bright for me. I was relocated to a shady area and it was much better even though it uses standard ceiling lights.
  • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:11AM (#13182942) Homepage Journal
    I remember seeing pictures of these on Japanese office buildings in the early 80s. They were called "Sunflowers", and they were mostly prototypes I think, and had a honeycomb [si.edu] set of collectors which piped the sunlight into the building.

  • Photonic Storage? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:11AM (#13182945) Homepage Journal
    Is there any way to store the photons in sunlight? Not convert them to electrons, then reemit them, but "trap" the photons in some medium, then emit them at some arbitrary later date? Without transforming some amount of their energy to heat or other mechanical energy. For retransmission later, like when the sun goes down.

    Maybe a nanomaze of fiber, a few wavelengths in diameter, twisting its way around inside a cubic centimeter? If such a "photon trap" were millions of meters in length, it might be able to absorb photons for a while, before the first ones trapped finally made their way around the loop to the surface, during which time the trap could be closed (with a mirror, cycling the photons through the circuit until it was opened again. Or maybe an input window that's mirrored only on the inside, trapping photons continuously, until another mirrored facet is removed. Or a spiral maze of MEMs mirrors which send light around the cycle, until one is tilted away from the cycle, towards the output.

    Is there any kind of work on "photonic storage"?
    • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by renehollan (138013) <rhollan@@@clearwire...net> on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:17AM (#13182985) Homepage Journal
      Google for Slow Glass [technovelgy.com].
      • This is sorta off topic, but that comment reminded me of a book I read one time in which the main character had a shed in his yard that would slow time way down for anyone who was in it. So he spent like a year in it but only one day had passed in the real world. I remember he did lots of working out while he was in there and when he came out his older brother was pissed =). Anybody happen to know what that was called?
    • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:3, Informative)

      by TigerNut (718742)
      The speed of light is 300 million meters per second. As long as your definition of 'a while' is in the millisecond range, you're in business.

      The 'infinite light trap' is an interesting notion, but since the mirrors would absorb a small fraction of the incident energy with every photon reflection, you wouldn't be able to store a lot of energy until things got really hot.

      One thing that might work is to trap photons inside a slow-light crystal, but I think that conservation of energy would still have to apply,

      • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Doc Ruby (173196)
        What if the mirrors aren't flat "silvered" reflectors (how does that do it, anyway?), but instead just loops of fiber, never at less than the critical refractive angle? Perhaps doped for soliton organization? The efficiency probably won't ever be 100% "reflective", until we build the structures out of individual electrons, probably in a vacuum, in microgravity. Or around a nano-black-hole, perhaps a magnetically contained all-strange mass in a vacuum.

        Until then, is there any way to just charge a photonic cr
        • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TigerNut (718742)
          Even if total internal reflection were 100% efficient (and it can't be), you'd be left with an interesting problem... How do you get the light in? The refractive index of glass is such that the angle of an incident light beam gets closer to normal (perpendicular to the interface plane), compared to the source. So shining a beam of light onto the surface of a perfect quartz torus (of arbitrary length or number of turns) will just cause most of the beam to be refracted such that it can exit on the opposite to
          • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Alomex (148003) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:28AM (#13183279) Homepage
            How do you get the light in? The refractive index of glass is such that the angle of an incident light beam gets closer to normal (perpendicular to the interface plane), compared to the source.

            This is a geometric problem which has been solved by mathematicians. The light trap looks like an egg with part of the lateral wall removed. The "egg" itself is made of portions of a paraboloid and an ellipsoid. The light gets trapped in the ellipsoid, bouncing on a trajectory ever closer to the major axis of the ellipsoid, i.e. the line joining the foci.

        • Woah. You know what I would do with this? Photonic light bomb. Just keep pouring light into it until you could take out a city if you release the light all at once.
    • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:4, Informative)

      by deglr6328 (150198) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:21AM (#13183255)
      In short. No. The trouble is in the absorption of photons by your reflective trap. See, even the most perfectly reflective surfaces we're capable of making (~99.999% reflective) are not good enough to do this. There is a technique for measuring the reflectivity of these (VERY) expensive mirrors called cavity ring-down where a laser pulse is injected into a cavity created with a highly reflective mirror and you watch how quickly that light pulse decays and this tells you very accurately the reflectivity of the thing. After only some tens of microseconds you are left with mere fractions of a percent of your original pulse. So in short, even with super reflective walls, your photon storage unit will still very efficiently convert those initial photons to heat in short order.
      • I consider using short loops of fiber, bent, but not within the critical refractive angle, to send the light back along the direction from which it came, but along the extremely long path, in another post [slashdot.org].
    • Re:Photonic Storage? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @02:40AM (#13183497)
      There are methods of storing photonic energy (is that a real term?) as chemical energy. It is called glow paint ;~) But yeah, I think that falls under 'convert to electrons', or close.

      Seriously though, there is no possible way to do what you want using mirrors, because there is no perfect mirror. And saying 'fiber' just means using mirrors (fiber reflects light down its length). What you want would be a lossless (or really damned close to lossless) method of focusing light: that method is gravity. One could conceive of (probably not implement though) a system where you had a perfect gravitational loop (e.g. by moving stars around to suit your purpose) and one could add light into this loop by aiming a laser properly, or a deft us of mirrors (you would only use the mirror for one reflection, gravity does the rest).

      The reason this wouldn't REALLY work is that while light (photons) doesn't/don't have mass, it has momentum. So changing the direction of a whole boat load of photons would in fact wreak havoc on the perfect circle of a gravity well you created (the stars would be moved). I think. That, and good luck moving stars around ;~)

      So, short answer to second paragraph: Won't ever work. Cool thought though.

      Short answer to first paragraph: It's called a black hole :~) And you CAN get the energy back. But probably not in the same frequency of light that went in.

      But then, if we have a stable black hole to play with, we certainly would have no need of storing photons :~) Toss in a bit of matter, catch the high-energy radiation as it gets ripped to shreds, convert to as much energy as you could possibly desire. More efficient than matter-antimatter, and far more efficient than a fusion reaction. I have about a 60% certainty level on the matter-antimatter part of that statement; verification would be wonderful. I can't remember where I read it, if in fact I really did :~)

      Cheers
      • Fibers aren't mirrored, they're just never bent at more than the critical refractive angle, to keep light always refracted within total internal refraction. I consider fiber loops long enough to return 180' in another post [slashdot.org].
  • by maxrate (886773) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:18AM (#13182992)
    There is a reason why it's called 'natural light', because it's natural, not artificial.

    I moved my office from a building where we had NO windows. Productivity has gone up tremendously. We don't feel as worn out at the end of the day, and we don't feel like we missed out on anything.

    I saw this on the Discovery channel, and it's fantastic for commerical space as you can distribute 'natural' light all over the office where windows can't be located. It saves on energy use as well. As yes, there are UV filters.

    I wish it was a little more affordable, i'd do it in a heart beat.

    • You won't see buzzards circling like I can from my office window.

      Even when I just had a view of the company generator and a few pigeons, it was better than any diffuse piped light source could ever be. The problem being "solved" here is a fault of US corporate culture that will eventually go away of its own accord when gigantic buildings with dark interiors go out of fashion.

  • Rerouting outside lighting to the interior isn't new, of course: see windows and sky lights. :)

    Though, this story reminded me of an episode from Beyond 2000 [wikipedia.org] of a Japanese company that used a concentrator on the outside but instead of using the light for interior lighting it was some sort of therapeutic device. This was probably about a decade ago when I saw it, so the details are kind of hazy...

    Does it surprise me that the Japanese had the whole sunlight-through-fiber idea a decade ago?
  • by maxrate (886773) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:21AM (#13183009)
    Blast a thinkgeek laser beam in reverse from your cubicle fiber port and wake up some alien race.
  • by Rhinobird (151521) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:22AM (#13183015) Homepage
    During the cold war there was much competition between American and Russian office productivity. The Americans spent millions delevoping a system to direct sunlight into buildings. It was awesome in its capabilities. The sun tracker used very little energy, the interior of the building was laced with miles of fiber optic cabling. All in all a wonder of modern engineering triumph.

    When face with a similar problem, the Soviets used a "window".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:23AM (#13183020)
    Here's an article from 1999, which notes:
    "Sound like science fiction? It's not. One such product, the
    Himawari, has been commercially available for nearly 15 years ..."

    http://www.sun-tek.com/Docs/ArticleDaylighting.htm [sun-tek.com]

    Slashdot: 20-year-old news for nerds. Sigh.
  • by sdfad1 (880883) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:27AM (#13183040) Homepage Journal

    Errr, wait a minute, something's not right here. First we build a structure- wind, quake, water, sun, (and even fire)-proof, then we build another gadget to bring the sun into our buildings. I'm no architect, but the buildings we can see all around us are convincing proof that we can ensure natural sunlight reaches most parts of the interior of our buildings - we have sun roofs, open areas, North facing buildings (in the Southern hemisphere), even simple windows.

    This gadget is just a bunch of boys' toy, and will be forgotten in a few years. I suggest we pay more attention to the architects who are building our environments to ensure we never need such devices in the first place. A bit of design in the beginning saves plenty of effort later. For example, you won't need to crack your brains figuring out safety regulations, building codes and installation hassles for a fibre optics light and heat guide...

    • Not all buildings can ensure that natural light will get in as far as you might think. Even taking into account multiple windows, sun roofs, solar pipes and the building's facing. Then take into account multi-floor buildings like offices and malls. Products like these can bring more natural light further into large area buildings easier than normal windows and will likely cause less structural problems and maintanece than multiple skylights and solar pipes. Not that I am endorsing this particular product.
  • Arcology lighting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davedx (861162) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:32AM (#13183061) Homepage
    This would be fantastic for lighting the insides of Arcologies [wikipedia.org]. Something I've always thought was a big negative for city sized buildings is whereas you have a huge volume for everything you have relatively less surface area for windows, and as someone else posted here lack of natural light can be really bad for you... in a large-sized arcology you'd have huge sections with no windows...

    Just a random thought on an application.
  • Better get to work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hobotron (891379) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:34AM (#13183074)

    At 1.98892 × 10^30 kilograms these "fiber optic" dudes better get started now!
  • by RevengeOfPoopJuggler (872968) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:40AM (#13183099) Journal
    That's just more ransom money in my pocket when I complete my sun-blocking machine...
  • by loggia (309962) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:41AM (#13183106)
    This was posted on Slashdot a few weeks ago.

    And many posters (including me) pointed out that sun pipes have been around a long time.

  • I suremise that such a system is cost prohibitive for home use. If it was practical and even moderatly expensive someone would be sellign them already instead of three decades of Beta testing. Sure you can get cheapo sun tubes but they don't put out much light and aren't usable just anywhere becasue of limitations of distance between the roof opening and the interior ceiling and the number of bends/reflectors required.
  • Elevators (Score:3, Interesting)

    by revscat (35618) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:45AM (#13183129) Journal
    I wonder if these could be made to work in elevators? You could have the fibers going straight down from the roof, say one for each corner of the elevator. They would be shielded in a translucent tube so that the passengers couldn't obviously touch them. And since you have a natural shaft to the roof already, this seems like it would be a good fit.

    The main benefit would be the lessened heat dissipation. I've been in far too many elevators that have what seems like way too many incandescents in the roof that make the elevator very hot, especially this time of year.

  • Let's do some maths. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:53AM (#13183151)
    $US8000 for one of these systems, capable of lighting 1000 square feet. That's $US8 per square foot; I'm Australian, so let's work in Australian dollars: around $10 Australian per square foot. A typical fluorescent light bulb (to replace an incandescent bulb) uses 15 watts of electricity.

    Looking at my latest electricity bill, I'm charged 13 cents (Australian, roughly) per kilowatt hour. Ten dollars is 77 kilowatt hours; that's equivalent to running one of those things for 5,000 hours (again, roughly).

    Working period is 8 hours a day, five days a week -- forty hours a week. 5,000 hours is therefore 125 weeks, or about two and a half years. Multiply that figure by the number of square feet a standard bulb can illuminate (it'd be, what, about 50 square feet at a guess?), and you have a break-even point of 125 years.

    If they're replacing incandescent bulbs (which use four times the electricity), break even comes down to about 30 years.

    Points to consider:

    1. My pricing for electricity is residential rates. Industrial and commercial rates are probably different. Anybody have solid figures?
    2. I'm guessing with the 50 square feet per bulb. If a bulb can light more area, the time to breakeven increases accordingly. If less, it decreases.
    3. Businesses typically use fluorescent tubes, not bulb replacements. I don't know how much energy those use, nor how much area they can light.
    4. Does this price include installation? If not, there's an added expense before break even is reached.
    5. You'll also need other lighting to supplement this system on badly overcast days, and at night, reducing the payoff.
    The price will have to drop a bit based upon my back-of-the-envelope calculations before this becomes viable. If anybody has better figures than the ones I've given, please, speak up -- I'm genuinely curious. In particular, I don't know how much electricity costs a business in the USA; that is the single biggest factor in determining payoff time.
    • Working period is 8 hours a day? Where do they still do that?

      Most places have you do lunch, many places start an hour or two early, and have people that stay an hour or two late. Parts of the building are lit 24/7.

      I did some temp work at "State Farm" headquarters, and during a heat wave, the electric company would call and the SF would turn off half, or most of the lights. This was to lighten the load on the power grid.
    • I don't know the rules for the US, and I can't quite remember them for Denmark (I didn't work with the numbers, but the company I used to work for did).

      There are some VERY stringint guidelines for the amount of light each and every workspace must have (this is required by law). This means that if you have two desks in one office, each of those desks much be lit at least as well as specified.

      Something like 400 to 800 Lumens seems to come into my mind as the lumination for workspaces. I don't think you'll wan
  • GPS Tracking? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uberdave (526529) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:56AM (#13183162) Homepage
    Why would they need GPS tracking? It's not like the building is going to move. I suppose they are using the time/date signal to compute where point the dish. Good luck fumbling around in the dark when the military scrambles the GPS in response to a terrorist threat though. Why don't they simply use a set of phototransistors instead, no computing required?
  • The GPS-based sun-tracking mechanism uses very little energy.

    Bah, that's nothing. I've designed a similar system and my sunflower-based sun-tracking mechanism uses even less energy! None at all in fact, other than a little bit of water. And these guys think they're environmentally conscious, hah!
  • I wonder if these fiber optic roofs will allow people (spy satellites?) to see inside a room when the luminosity inside the room is higher than that outside. Think of it like peering into a house's front windows at night -- as long as the living room lights are on, you can see in, but they can't see out.
  • This isn't groundbreaking. There have been building materials developed before that use fibers to transmit light from outside [optics.org]. I'm a bigger fan of just designing the building so that more natural light finds its way in, rather than resorting to expensive materials and tricks. Windows do an OK job when positioned intelligently. I remember visiting an apartment building in Norwich which had a brilliant design, sunlight made it down columns to each floor and there was plenty natural lighting in the hallways. A
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:32AM (#13183292) Journal
    Install some glass windows and skylights. More sunlight for a fraction of the price. Want to be able to turn it off? Just install some blinds.
  • by StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @02:22AM (#13183446)
    What reason could you possibly have for using GPS to track the damned sun?

    Three or four photosensors and a PIC 12 could do the same thing at a cost of about a dollar. Hell, you could skip the micro and do it all in hardware for probably 50 cents. If you must assume the person installing it is too bloody stupid to adjust the angle of the device to allow for one-axis tracking (see Equatorial Mount [wikipedia.org]), then it would be more like 9 or 16 sensors in a dome pattern. STILL about a hundred times cheaper than the cheapest GPS-on-a-chip system (plus the code one would have to write to make it work).

    Personally, I avoid buying things that make me seriously question the sanity of those who are selling it.

    And: WHY THE HELL WAS THIS POSTED!? Come on, this is so not new anything.

  • Not one comment about cannibus cultivation using this system? My you'all really are a bunch of nerds. Many cultivators are caught by an analysis of the amount of electricity needed to recreate sunlight in places where the plants being grown by this artificial sunlight can never be exposed to casual public view.
    But a light pipe that can channel sunlight from the solar tower to underground growing chamber without showing up on the computerized electricity bills? Something new under the sun!
  • Or you could just blast a hole in the wall or something. Of course, I'm pretty sure it would be a bad idea to bring the sun indoors. Even if you could fit it, you'd incinerate everything around you. Plus other nasty side effect.
  • by Vo0k (760020) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @02:46AM (#13183517) Journal
    You know, using thermonuclear fusion to desalinize water in oceans and use it for watering agricultural terrains is pretty old too. It's called rain.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @03:29AM (#13183632)
    The GPS-based sun-tracking mechanism uses very little energy.

    Isn't a GPS overkill for this? How about an array of three photocells aimed slightly differently on the X and Y axis to tell the dish to move towards the greater amount of light?

    Btw, it's not (just) the UV I'd want to filter. While indoor all-over tanning in complete privacy might be nice, I'd be more interested in filtering out heat in the summer, and allowing it in during the Winter.

  • GPS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @04:40AM (#13183749) Homepage
    Isn't using GPS for sun tracking just a tad over-engineered? Why not just track the big bright thing in the sky using simple optical sensors? And if it's too cloudy to get a good fix on the sun, well, the system isn't going to do you any good anyway...

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