Dark ground-level alleys and streets in skyscraper-filled cities could soon be a thing of the past, as a team of researchers in Egypt have developed a light-directing panel that reflects natural sunlight into dark streets.
The panel is attached to the edge of rooftops and positioned at an angle so that it reflects sunlight into the street, meaning dark alleys can enjoy the benefits of natural sunlight without the need for complicated light-tracking devices or an electricity supply.
As cities have increasingly looked to the sky to expand, the number of ground-level areas lacking sunlight is on the rise, and this trend is only set to continue.
Pressure on space is so severe that before long some regions could embrace multi-level cities not unlike Hengsha in the cyberpunk videogame Deus Ex: Human Revolution, resulting in poorly lit lower areas that are likely to be a target for crime.
However, with this technology these areas could once again access natural sunlight, providing a far better alternative to neon or fluorescent light, and generally improving the living standards ground-level areas.
“We expect the device to provide illumination to perform everyday tasks and improve the quality of light and health conditions in dark areas,” said professor of electronics and communications engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, Amr Safwat.
Safwat also highlighted the health conditions associated with inadequate sunlight, including depression, loss of energy and serious mood changes. “Research has shown that lack of natural lighting can cause severe physiological problems,” he added.
Although similar technology has been used to bring natural light to poorly-lit rooms, this is the first time such a device has been developed for outdoor street environments.
The panel is made of an acrylic plastic also used to make Plexiglas, which is smooth at the bottom but covered in ridges at the top. The ridges are based on a sine wave, and have been shaped to distribute the maximum amount of sunlight on the street below.
As the panels require no electricity they are a surprisingly cost-effective way to boost light in dark streets.
Safwat said that the panel, which is still in the testing phase, is likely to cost between $70 and $100 per square meter, making it cheaper and greener than some other electricity-based solutions. And with plans to commercialise the technology, these panels could soon be a familiar sight in cities around the world.
Inline images courtesy of Optics Express.