Recently, Digital Trends profiled a new product being developed by an associate professor of optics and experimental physics who works at the University of Insubria in Como, Italy. The professor’s name is Paolo di Trapani, and his work has a lot of people excited. For all the rapid progress that has been made with LEDs, no one else has made this important step towards recreating natural light.
The article explains how lighting innovations have allowed people to use artificial light in a number of amazing ways. We can change the color temperature of a light bulb with a smartphone, and we can grow food indoors, but we haven’t yet been able to mimic the way the atmosphere scatters the sun’s natural light…until now.
According to Digital Trends, di Trapani’s technology scatters the light of a panel of white LEDs with “a clear plastic panel studded with nanoparticles that are invisible to the naked eye.” What’s a nanopartical? A nanoparticle is what it sounds like: A really small particle. Nanoparticle research is currently hot because there are tons of ways that nanoparticle research could be applied in biomedical, optical, and electronic fields.
So di Trapani’s nanoparticles scatter the light of the LED panel in a manner that attempts to replicate the way that the atmosphere scatters the sun’s light. This makes the light actually feel more like natural light. The process of light scattering is called Rayleigh scattering. Now, what’s really cool is that the prototype panel uses two different sizes of nanoparticles to make this magic happen. Most of the panel is diffused to look like ambient sky light, but one circular section of the panel radiates warm, yellowing light in order to actually mimic the sun! As Digital Trends reports, “The team has even developed different panels to simulate other outdoor light conditions – everything from a bright, sunny day, to colorful, glowing sunset.” So cool!
Right? As of now, how well a job these panels are doing of creating realistic “natural” light remains to be seen. Digital Trends makes no comment about how well di Trapani’s panels work, but that’s understandable, since the prototypical product is still being developed. That means they’re not available for us yet, but it is hoped that mass production will commence “within the next year or two.”
My question about all of this is, What kind of effect could this natural light-mimicking LED panel on people’s moods? Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Tune in next week for a post on that topic.