New Technology Pipes Daylight into Windowless Rooms

light tube

This post is also available in: Chinese (Traditional), Spanish, Italian

By Alan Fookes at Green Futures

Innovative technology from Sunportal, a recent South Korean and British joint venture, promises to deliver natural daylight to windowless spaces through a series of high-tech pipes, without heat gain or loss.

A mirror tracks the sun throughout the day, reflecting its rays onto a parabolic dish, which then focuses the reflected daylight into a small ‘light pipe’ aperture. The concentrated light then travels through a series of relay lenses “over any distance and in any direction”, according to the company.  A diffuser ensures that light evenly reaches the desired areas.

The patented Sunportal offers luminance beginning at 80lux and peaking at 500lux (one lux is equivalent to light intensity during early twilight). What happens when the sun gets too faint? An integrated high-efficiency LED light kit, which can be connected to the mains, kicks in.

Founded last year after five years of research and development, and funded by CEO Tony Han, the company has already implemented its large commercial-scale technology (CS version) in three industrial locations in South Korea. Among them are the POSCO Steel Mill in Pohang and the Chungpyung Pumped Storage Plant, both of which were looking to replace older lighting systems. Dong Gyu-Oh, POSCO’s Plant Facilities Manager, declared the system was “a major asset for energy saving as well as for our environmental policy”.

Sunportal has also managed to secure two major contracts in office buildings in Spain and Austria.

Jong H. Kim, its Global Sales and Marketing Director, estimates that the technology will lower energy costs by an average of 20-25%. He also claims the natural light will have a beneficial impact on workforce productivity, citing a study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This article originally appeared in Green Futures, the magazine of independent sustainability experts Forum for the Future.

  • Doug Roberts

    Given our tendency to construct buildings primarily out of opaque materials that make it very difficult for natural light to penetrate very far into the buildings (ie. caves), this concept makes huge sense, particularly for commercial buildings which are used primarily during the daylight hours. Maybe some day we will go a step further and find a way to construct energy-efficient translucent buildings.

    • Dlo Burns

      If you live in a translucent building remember to never throw stones.