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Sunlight in a Pipe: New Natural Lighting System

A joint venture company, Sunportal, set up by British and South Korean scientists, promises that it can deliver natural sunlight to any windowless space via pipes.

The technology works by using a mirror to track the sun throughout the day and reflect the light onto a parabolic dish. The parabolic dish focuses the sun’s rays into a small whole which leads to the pipe. This concentrated light then travels along the pipe, passing through a series of relay lenses to ensure that the light doesn’t spread out in different directions. A diffuser guarantees that the light travels along the pipes in an even concentration.

Light Pipe

The company assures that their ‘light pipes’ offer between 80lux and 500lux of light (lux is the SI unit of luminance, and one lux is equivalent to light intensity during early twilight). Jong H. Kim, the Global Sales and Marketing Director, claims that the system can lower energy costs by 20-25 percent.

The technology has already been installed on a large scale at three locations in South Korea. The POSCO Steel Mill in Pohang, and the Chungpyung Pumped Storage Plant, were both looking to replace their ageing lighting systems and chose Sunportal as a natural, cheap, environmentally friendly option. Dong Gyu-Oh, POSCO’s Plant Facilities Manager, commented that the technology was “a major asset for energy saving as well as for our environmental policy.”

Another two major contracts have been agreed to install the Sunportal system in office buildings in Spain and in Austria.

Could this system become a staple light source for most office buildings? It’s cleaner and cheaper than other lighting technologies, and according to a study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, natural light is healthier and can increase productivity in the workplace.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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