A project that uses LED lighting and nano technology to simulate sunlight indoors has received EU funding under the Horizon 2020 programme. The optical system created by Italian company CoeLux recreates the physical and optical effects of natural light indoors by simulating the diffusion and transmission of sunlight through the atmosphere. This optical system, anticipated to be ready for market at the end of the year, has been proven to have a positive impact on the comfort and wellbeing experienced in settings where there is a lack of natural light.
The CoeLux light diffusing technology will benefit anyone who does not get enough sunshine. It has been designed with a focus on the healthcare industry, but can be applied in retail, hospitality, museum, airport, underground transport, spa, sports centre, cinema, office and industrial environments. Those working or living in underground spaces, either due to space restrictions or as a way of coping with extreme climates, such as in Canada or the United Arab Emirates, are set to benefit greatly from the technology. The same is true of residents of countries located furthest from the equator, close to the Arctic or Antarctic, who often experience very little natural light for long periods during the year.
‘Evidence collected in the course of the project has shown that even claustrophobic individuals feel happy and relaxed when exposed to CoeLux light despite remaining in a window less room of a few square metres for a sustained period of time,’ said Professor Paolo Di Trapani, coordinator of the project and a physicist at the University of Insubria in Como, Italy whose research has been driven by the desire to recreate natural light for the past 10 years. The technology is owned by the IT Insubria-University spin-off 'CoeLux Srl'.
While previous research in this area concentrated on the development of low-energy–consumption light sources with the same spectrum as that of the Sun, Coelux’s system is based on the observation that the Sun does not provide its natural light only as a result of its spectrum but also due to subtle scattering effects related to the sky itself.
The researchers at CoeLux used the latest energy-saving LED technology to reproduce the sunlight spectrum, combined with a sophisticated optical system to create a sensation of distance between the ‘sky’ and the’sun’. Nanostructured materials, only a few millimetres thick were also designed to recreate the entire Rayleigh scattering process which occurs in the atmosphere. These elements are incorporated into a high-tech window system offering an enormous range of opportunities and design possibilities for indoor architectural spaces.
The end result is that users can experience the light of Northern Europe, of the Mediterranean and of the Tropics in the three setting options that Coelux system provides.
The research project received €2.5m in funding from the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme. Trapani commented on how the additional funds benefitted the project: ‘The EU funding was essential to allow us to invest in research and development and cover demonstration costs. It was invaluable in helping to convince other investors to join and support us. We strongly encourage other SMEs to apply for EU funding as it opens windows of opportunity.’
The CoeLux technology will be ready for market towards the end of 2014 and constitutes an important business opportunity for the project partners and network of European enterprises which will be involved in its production, demonstration and implementation. The global lighting market
Is estimated to be worth €58 billion and this innovation is well positioned to take a share of that market, boosting European competitiveness and creating jobs, contributing even further to the wellbeing of European citizens.
Michael Jennings, spokesperson for European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: ‘Many areas of our lives-from energy, transportation, medicine, food safety, health and well-being-are being enhanced and even revolutionised by nanotechnology. Coelux is a great example of how science can turn a simple idea that is difficult to achieve–replicating sunlight–into a reality. It clearly has huge potential to make a difference in people's lives.’