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Tuesday 27 May 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel

Images: Coelux 
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New Italian invention brings daylight to windowless spaces 

There’s good news for the Scandinavians, and indeed anyone who suffers from a lack of daylight in their physical environment. Pioneering new technology from Italy has at last succeeded in creating realistic artificial daylight where so many past attempts haven’t quite worked.

The invention, known as Coelux, is the brainchild of physicist Professor Paolo Di Trapani of Italy’s University of Insubria, and has taken 10 years to perfect. In an interview with lighting trade journal Lux Magazine he explains: “The difference between Coelux and other attempts to recreate the sky is that it rebuilds the natural phenomenon of a natural sky, rather than just trying to look like it.”

And this is how it works. Coelux combines three key elements: the latest energy-saving LED technology to reproduce the sunlight spectrum; a sophisticated optical system to create a sensation of distance between the 'sky' and the 'sun'; and nano-structured materials, only a few millimetres thick, to recreate the entire Rayleigh scattering process which occurs in the atmosphere and makes the sky appear blue.

These elements are incorporated into a high-tech false ceiling and window system, offering a whole range of design possibilities for indoor and underground architectural spaces.

Coelux is also set to prove an extremely useful tool for those designing transport infrastructure. In the same interview with Lux Magazine, Professor Di Trapani gives a fine example: “Imagine you’re in the Channel Tunnel on the train to France. You feel that you cannot escape, but if every 100 metres you saw an aperture with the sun and the sky, the mood would change completely.”

During tests, even claustrophobic individuals felt happy and relaxed when exposed to Coelux light, despite remaining in a windowless room of just a few square metres for a sustained period of time.

The development of this exciting new product was funded by the European Union. The European Commission featured it among twelve innovative technologies showcased at the 2014 Innovation Convention in Brussels last March. Users can choose between three settings to replicate the light of Northern Europe, the Mediterranean or the Tropics.

Gail Taylor

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