Barcelona-based German-born architect André Broessel of rawlemon has constructed an enormous glass ball lens filled with water capable of harnessing power from the sun and even the moon (last image), and converting it into usable energy. I have no idea about the practicality of its use, but it sure is gorgeous. Broessel proposes that the spheres could be embedded in buildings allowing for natural light to stream through while capturing valuable energy. See much more over on Designboom.
Industrial designer and tinkerer Markus Kayser spent the better part of a year building and experimenting with two fantastic devices that harness the sun’s power in some of the world’s harshest climates. The first he calls a Sun Cutter, a low-tech light cutter that uses a large ball lens to focus the sun’s rays onto a surface that’s moved by a cam-guided system. As the surface moves under the magnified light it cuts 2D components like a laser. The project was tested for the first time in August 2010 in the Egyptian desert and Kayser used thin plywood to create the parts for a few pairs of pretty sweet shades. But he didn’t stop there.
Next, Kayser began to examine the process of 3D printing. Merging two of the deserts most abundant resources, nearly unlimited quantities of sand and sun, he created the Solar Sinter, a device that melts sand to create 3D objects out of glass. Via his web site:
This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering). [...] By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.
In mid-May the Solar Sinter was tested for a two week period in the deserts of Siwa, Egypt, resulting in the amazing footage above. It’s incredible to think that the solar energy generated for both machines is used only to power electronics, servos and the mechanism that tracks the sun, while the power used to cut wood and melt sand is just raw, concentrated sunlight. While I fully understand the mechanics and science at work in Kayser’s devices, there’s something about them that just seems magical. Definitely head over to his website to explore more photos and info. (via stellar, sorry can’t link the post for some reason)
LUMENHAUS is a solar-powered home designed by Virginia Tech students that generates more power than it uses annually. It was one of only two American entries in the 2010 Solar Decathalon Europe competition in Madrid, and was on display in Millennium Park in Chicago up until last weekend. Totally kicking myself for missing this.
LUMENHAUS is designed to respond to changes in temperature and environment, which it does through sliding polycarbonate insulation panels filled with aerogel, creating strong insulation while allowing a soft natural light into the space. They move to create appropriate amounts of sun control, cross ventilation, lighting, and privacy. A stretched fabric ceiling provides enough light at night with dim flourescent and LED lighting, and no electric light is ever required when the sun is up. The roof collects rain water, which is then filtered and used for drinking and for the water plants. The entire system is monitored and controlled by an iPad and iPhone interface that allocates energy to different areas of the system at different times.