Let the Sun Shine In: Redirecting Sunlight to Urban Alleyways | Be Korea-savvy

Let the Sun Shine In: Redirecting Sunlight to Urban Alleyways

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A dim street in a dense urban area in Egypt, in which the light-directing panel could be deployed. (Photo: Business Wire)

A dim street in a dense urban area in Egypt, in which the light-directing panel could be deployed. (Photo: Business Wire)

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2014 (Korea Bizwire) – In dense, urban centers around the world, many people live and work in  dim and narrow streets surrounded by tall buildings that block sunlight.  And as the global population continues to rise and buildings are jammed  closer together, the darkness will only spread.

To alleviate the problem, Egyptian researchers have developed a  corrugated, translucent panel that redirects sunlight onto narrow  streets and alleyways. The panel is mounted on rooftops and hung over  the edge at an angle, where it spreads sunlight onto the street below.  The researchers describe their design in a paper published today in Energy  Express, a supplement of The Optical Society’s (OSA)  open-access journal Optics  Express.

“We expect the device to provide illumination to perform everyday tasks,  and improve the quality of light and health conditions in dark areas,”  said Amr Safwat, a professor of electronics and communications  engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. These dimly lit  areas specifically include narrow streets in developing countries, but  Safwat said the new panel could be used in any country as a greener,  cheaper, and more pleasant alternative to fluorescent and other  artificial light.

While other commercially available window-like devices can redirect  light, they are designed for shade and redirecting glare or for  brightening a room—not a narrow street. So the researchers decided to  create their own design. They wanted a simple way to redistribute  natural light without the need for a tracking device that follows the  rising and setting sun.

What they came up with is a panel made of polymethyl methacrylate  (PMMA), the same acrylic plastic of which Plexiglas is made. The bottom  of the panel is smooth while the top is covered in ridges that are based  on a sine wave, the mathematical function that describes everything from  light to pendulums. The researchers used computer simulations to find  the size and shape of the grooves that distribute the most amount of  sunlight in a wide range of sun positions all year round, whether it’s  high or low in the sky. A sine-wave pattern is also easy to manufacture.

Using simulations of sunlight shining on an alleyway, the researchers  found that their panels increased illumination by 200 percent and 400  percent in autumn and winter, respectively, when sunlight is most  limited. They also tested a small prototype over a  0.4-meter-by-0.4-meter shaft that is 1.2-meters deep and found that it  lit up the area as designed.

The next step, Safwat said, will be to build a full-scale model 10 times  bigger to validate their calculations and to test it in a real alleyway.  The team then plans to market and commercialize the panel. He estimates  that a one-square-meter panel and a frame will cost between $70 and $100.

And that may be a small price to pay for the benefits of sunlight. The  lack of sun in urban areas doesn’t just make life gloomy; it can be  harmful to your health, Safwat said.

“Research has shown that lack of natural lighting can cause severe  physiological problems,” such as serious mood changes, excessive  sleeping, loss of energy and depression, Safwat said.

He also noted that using sunlight to illuminate historical places—such  as ancient alleyways in Egypt—also helps preserve the authenticity of  the site, maintaining its cultural value and historical significance.

This work was funded by the Science and Technology Development Fund of  Egypt.

Paper: “Illumination  of dense urban areas by light redirecting panels,” S. I. El-Hanawy,  et al., Optics Express, Vol. 22, Issue S3, pp. A895-A907 (2014).

About Energy Express

The Optical Society’s (OSA) premier open-access journal, Optics  Express, publishes a bimonthly supplement, Energy Express.  This supplement is dedicated to new developments in the science and  engineering of light and their impact on sustainable energy, the  environment, and green technologies. It is led by Editor Christian  Seassal from CNRS, University of Lyon, France and is available at no  cost to readers online at www.OpticsInfoBase.org/EE.

About Optics Express

Optics Express reports on new developments in all fields of  optical science and technology every two weeks. The journal provides  rapid publication of original, peer-reviewed papers. It is published by  The Optical Society and edited by Andrew M. Weiner of Purdue University. Optics  Express is an open-access journal and is available at no cost to  readers online at www.OpticsInfoBase.org/OE.

About OSA

Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional  society for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who  fuel discoveries, shape real-world applications and accelerate  achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned  publications, meetings and membership programs, OSA provides quality  research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its  extensive global network of professionals in optics and photonics. For  more information, visit www.osa.org.

Source: Energy Express, Optics Express & OSA (via BusinessWire)

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