Monthly Archives: May 2013

Brilliant Design: Intelligent Lighting and Sensors in Smart Cities

The idea of ‘Smart Cities’ is one that’s becoming familiar to engineers. Partly an adaptation to more diverse sources of electricity, including small-scale renewables, partly a development of the so-called ‘Internet of Things’, allowing household appliances to adjust their electricity consumption to take account of fluctuations in prices, the concept is being trialled in many cities around the world and is of particular interest to countries building new cities, such as those in the Middle East and China.

But while a lot of attention has been paid to the components that make up the smartness of the cities — the electronic brains in appliances, electric vehicles, the electricity-distribution hubs, and the smart meters that are intended to allow domestic and business users to monitor their electricity consumption in detail — there has been less information around about the nervous system that connects all these processing centres. How will the smart components talk to each other? And what effects might that have on actually living in a smart city?

The answer, according to some of the largest electronic infrastructure providers, is likely to be in the air. A huge expansion of wireless broadband around the entire city, allowing devices to communicate via interlocking networks while at the same time enabling much wider-spread usage of devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

The overall goal of smart-city infrastructure is to enable the city to use electricity (and other forms of energy) more efficiently.

But this network might have some unexpected effects. For example, Cisco Systems is proposing that it should be extended to the city’s lighting network.

James Crowther, Christopher Herzig and Gordon Feller of Cisco explain in a report, The time is right for connected public lighting in smart cities, that adding intelligence to LED street-lighting systems can not only reduce energy consumption, thereby saving money, but can also make cities safer and easier to navigate at night.

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Written by: Stuart Nathan

Source: The Engineer

LEDs in Greenhouses Deliver Same Yield as Grow Lights, Using Just 25% of the Energy

Even with our growing emphasis on and awareness of the benefits to the environment when eating locally and seasonally, there hasn’t seemed to have been a major shift in our eating habits, as most of us still want to be able to buy any kind of produce we want, any time of the year that we want, regardless of the conditions necessary to grow those items.

We expect to find things like ripe, flavorful tomatoes and peppers in the grocery store during the middle of winter, and we also expect them to still be affordable. That’s a tall order, especially in the northern parts of the world, as maintaining heated, lighted greenhouses all winter long consumes quite a bit of energy and money, which is something that small and local growers in the north can’t generally afford to do.

To be able to still meet demand in the winter for out-of-season items such as tomatoes, grocery stores and restaurants depend on produce trucked in from a thousand miles away, with is also responsible for large amounts of energy consumption for transport and refrigeration. Those heavily-traveled tomatoes are often bland in flavor and high in cost, but still end up cheaper to produce than growing them locally.

“The average tomato is trucked 1,500 miles from where it’s picked in the winter and it sits on that truck for a week or more. By the time it gets to a northern market, it has been in the dark for a while and its quality is degraded. Yet you pay a premium for it—up to four dollars a pound in January.” – Cary Mitchell, Purdue University horticulture professor

However, LED lights may soon enable greenhouse growers to grow affordable, vine-ripened tomatoes and other produce items much closer to the market, enabling more local food production, especially in the northern latitudes.

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Written by: Derek Markham

Source: Treehugger

James Turrell at Guggenheim Museum

James Turrell, the eminent American artist’s first solo exhibition in a New York museum since 1980, will be on view at the Guggenheim Museum from June 21 through September 25, 2013.

The exhibition features a major new site-specific work, Aten Reign, which represents one of the most dramatic transformations of the museum ever conceived-reimagining the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic building as one of Turrell’s luminous and immersive Skyspaces.

One of the largest installations the artist has ever mounted and the result of nearly six years of planning, Aten Reign will materialize the light and the air that fill the expanse of the Guggenheim rotunda. The work proposes an entirely new encounter with the building, as attention is drawn away from the boundaries of the built environment and toward the interior space, creating what Turrell has described as “an architecture of space created with light.” For the first time, the rotunda can be experienced only from below-not as an open void to be looked across, but as a mass of vibrant color that expands and contracts above the heads of visitors.

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Written by: Senay Gokcen

Source: Dexigner

The Energy Fix: How Waste Could Power The U.S. For Decades

The world throws away enormous amounts of energy each day. In the U.S. alone, waste streams could account for 100,000 megawatts of untapped electrical capacity. New technology could convert those overlooked sources into usable power.

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Written by: David Ferris

Source: Popular Science

Bringing Smart Grid Intelligence to Street Lights in Paris

Silver Spring Networks (SSNI), the smart grid networking company that wants to expand its reach to streetlights, traffic signals and other “smart city” devices, will get a chance to try it out in a city famous for its lights. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company said Thursday it’s working with Paris lighting systems provider Evesa, in a small pilot that’s part of a broader scheme to reduce the city’s lighting energy consumption by nearly one-third by decade’s end.

The pilot will aim at a small portion of a central Paris neighborhood along the Seine, Sterling Hughes, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company’s senior director of advanced technology, said in a phone interview. Silver Spring will be providing the unified wireless networking platform to link both street lights and traffic signals, primarily to drive better operational efficiency out of the system as a whole, he said.

While the terms and scope of the pilot aren’t yet defined, it’s part of the initial stages of what could grow to a pretty big citywide smart lighting and traffic project. Paris wants to reduce its overall lighting energy consumption by 30 percent from 2004 levels by 2020, through a combination of more efficient lighting like LEDs and smarter control systems. Reaching that goal without instituting unpopular lights-out regimes or changing the character of the city’s famous nightscapes will take some clever work.

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Written by: Jeff St. John

Source: The Energy Collective

The ‘Componentized’ School of the Future, Built in 90 Days

Project Frog built a school in a warehouse.

Or at least, part of a school. The “componentized” building company — Frog management dislikes the terms “prefab” and “modular” — put up a life-size model of one classroom, a hall, and a couple other rooms in their warehouse on a San Francisco pier.

It was a trial run for the first school in Frog’s new line, which it calls the “Impact” platform — a quickly erected, easily reproducible, cost-saving approach to schoolhouse construction that will allow schools to include advanced facilities that are unaffordable with current building techniques.

The warehouse model is 2,400 square feet of what will eventually become the new 19,000 square-foot building at Santa Ana’s El Sol Academy. Though they faced multiple delays this spring — demolition is still yet to begin at the existing location and actual construction isn’t slated to begin until July — Project Frog nonetheless says the building will be completed by Thanksgiving, just under three months later.

El Sol is Frog’s latest attempt to streamline prefab. By designing whole buildings in-house, the story goes, Project Frog can cut out a lot of wasted effort and materials, and thereby, a lot of the price. They love to point out Boeing as an example, saying if that company can build an airliner in a little over a week, why do buildings take months or years? If you start with a bunch of interchangeable parts, you can assemble them rapidly without sacrificing quality, and even add elements other methods aren’t able to.

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Written by: Nathan Hurst

Source: Wired Design

LEDs Magazine: Five rules for designing roadway lighting

Of the many design challenges facing LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) applications, perhaps there is none greater than that of expectations. There are expectations around the application. There are expectations around the incumbent technology. There are expectations around the way it has always been done, and, as a result, there are expectations around the way it should be done going forward. What if we were able, however, to design with a clean sheet of paper? Take roadway lighting as an example. If we were to take that application, deconstruct it, and come at it from a different angle, what might we do differently, and how are LEDs specifically suitable tools in this redesign?

When we think about the job of lighting a roadway, we are conditioned to think about what is happening right in front of us. We think about targets in the road and response time in identification. In fact, the entire series of metrics for roadway lighting is modeled around these requirements. From this standpoint, our examination of roadway lighting is fundamentally no different than our examination of office lighting. The conditions and demands of the tasks, however, couldn’t be more different.

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Written by: Don Peifer

Source: LEDs Magazine

Lighting Design Strategies To Improve Health

Michael David White, senior lighting designer, Schuler Shook, presented a compelling argument for a new approach to lighting design within senior living environments during his session at the 2013 Environments for Aging Conference. Backed by research that was thoughtfully and clearly explained, White laid out the evidence to support a broader definition of lighting itself, drawing a distinction between “visual darkness” and “circadian darkness.”

Circadian rhythms—the biological patterns that fall within a 24-hour cycle—can play an important role in health and wellness, White explained. While this concept isn’t news to anyone in the healthcare industry, White took the specific tack of linking circadian sleep patterns with health outcomes of seniors living in long-term care environments. “Many residents’ sleep patterns are disrupted in long-term care facilities,” he said, and pointed to how sleep disruption has been linked to issues such as depression, seasonal affective disorder, and even an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. “We’ve accepted [sleep disruption] as a normal function of aging—but it doesn’t have to be.”

The issue, he contended, is that light levels in these environments are typically kept low and many residents aren’t exposed to bright lights at any point during their regular day. “Evidence supports that it’s the disruption of circadian rhythms” that derails sleep patterns, he said, and “we can affect that through lighting.”

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Written by: Kristin Zeit

Source: Healthcare Design Magazine

Popular Science: We’ve Finally Figured Out What Makes LED Bulbs So Inefficient

LEDs should be lighting the way to a greener future: They use 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, and they do so at a cooler temperature. But right now, we mostly use LEDs in electronics, because they have a bit of a drooping problem: at higher currents, the amount of light they produce takes a nose-dive.

The efficiency droop has baffled scientists for years, but researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and France’s École Polytechnique say they’ve finally solved the mystery.

Their work, published in a forthcoming issue of the Physical Review Letters, identifies the source of the droop as a process called Auger recombination, a non-radiative process that produces heat. Previous research at UCSB theorized that Auger recombination might be the culprit, but this is the first study to measure the effect conclusively.

LED-based lights contain a microchip with a positive-type and a negative-type semiconductor made of gallium nitride. Between the two, in a quantum well, the negative electrons from one semiconductor and the electron holes from the other combine, producing a photon of light. When you apply more electricity, it produces more photons–to a point.

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Written by: Shaunacy Ferro

Source: Popular Science

BBC: LED streetlamp aims to improve public’s view of stars

Researchers believe they have come up with a new type of LED-powered streetlamp that could radically reduce light pollution.

Current designs “leak” large amounts of light in unwanted directions, obscuring views of the stars, wasting energy and making it harder for drivers to see.

The team, based in Mexico and Japan, said they believed their solution was the “best ever reported”. However, they have yet to turn their theory into a working prototype.

The study – carried out by scientists in Mexico and Taiwan – appears in the open-access journal Optics Express.

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Written by: Leo Kelion

Source: BBC