[ASC-media] Let the sun shine in: Lighting up your workplace

sarah at scienceinpublic.com sarah at scienceinpublic.com
Sun May 8 23:50:12 EST 2005

Queensland student pipes light to your office cubicle

Most people prefer natural light when they work and play. However, the size of
modern office buildings often means that natural light is far away.

Veronica Garcia Hansen, a PhD student from the Queensland University of
Technology in Brisbane, has a solution to this problem: “light pipe technology”
which uses sunlight for the illumination of high or middle-rise deep plan

The unique solar collectors already have patent protection and a leading
Malaysian architect has incorporated the pipes into his latest designs.

Although windows are the simplest way of introducing natural light into a
building, they can only illuminate an area of 4 to 5 metres from the window.

Deep buildings, with depths over 10 metres from the daylight source depend
almost entirely on artificial light.

“This creates unhealthy working environments for people, and increases
electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Veronica.

“In fact, nearly 20% of the power consumed by commercial buildings comes from
electrical lighting,” she says.

The only practical way to naturally illuminate spaces at distances over 10
metres is by piping light in.

“Architect Ken Yeang, from Malaysia, first contacted us to find an energy
efficient lighting solution for a building proposal in Kuala Lumpur.”

The solution proposed by Ms. Garcia Hansen and her supervisor Dr. Ian Edmonds
was a system that captures and reflects sunlight into a hollow mirrored pipe,
which can then be reflected into the deep office space at the required

“One of the greatest difficulties was how to capture the sunlight efficiently
since the sun constantly changes its position in the sky during the day and
over the seasons,” says Veronica.

“Most systems use complicated and expensive sun tracking systems. Our solution
has no mobile parts, and is completely passive, therefore reducing operation
and maintenance costs.”

“We realised that a simple device known as laser cut acrylic panels, would
passively redirect sunlight inside the pipe. This reduces the number of light
reflections along it, thereby increasing the performance.”

“An important innovation of our system is that light can be extracted at any
distance and at multiple points along the pipe, up to a distance of 24 metres.
Commercially available light pipes for residential use can only reach up to
three metres and have only one light output”.

The light pipes can be adapted to building designs and can be vertical –
collecting light from the roof - or horizontal - collecting light from the

With interest growing from international architects, the next step for Veronica
and her colleagues is to build a prototype – scheduled for later this year.

Veronica believes the light pipes will provide a cost-effective, energy
efficient solution that will enhance the well being and productivity of

Garcia Hansen’s innovation won her a place at Fresh Innovators - a national
initiative to bring the work of 16 early-career inventers to public attention.

For more information contact: Veronica Garcia Hansen (07) 3864 4334 / 0418 730
040 or email v.garciahansen at qut.edu.au

Media contacts for Fresh Innovators: Niall Byrne (03) 52523 1391 and Sarah
Brooker 0413 332 489


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