ECHY: Solar Lighting with Fiber Optics

Stephanie Le Beuze
Ile-de-France, France

“As we are a French start-up that is relatively unknown outside of Europe, winning an award of this kind will definitely help us make an entry into the international market. The recognition of this award will enable us to approach the US market with more confidence, so that we can collaborate with architects, designers, and engineers to bring ECHY and our daylight technology across the ocean!”
For many, artificial light has completely replaced natural light. Lighting can account for up to 50% of building electricity consumption, and up to 56% of energy bills in offices. Artificial light is not only costly for us and for the environment, but prevents us from using a natural and abundant resource: sunlight.

This new technology captures, transports, and diffuses daylight inside buildings, providing constant, high-quality lighting. A panel of Fresnel lenses, fixed onto a tracker, concentrates daylight. Each of the panels is fitted with a concentration module (0.5 m2). Once concentrated, fiber optic cables transport the light inside. The light is then diffused using a bisource lamp (solar and LED), so that in the case of insufficient sunlight, LEDs automatically take over.

ECHY has been installed in supermarkets, schools, and businesses. The company has partnered with Philips to design a hybrid lighting system. The first version of the technology, named ESCHYSSE, was launched at the end of 2013. A second version of this product, named ECHYNOXE, was developed this year, and is twice as efficient for the same price.

A range of fiber optic luminaires also was developed, including a virtual window that, using a camera positioned on the roof, diffuses a real-time image of the sky. The technology was officially patented in France in December 2012, and is now recognized internationally.

Studies have shown the overwhelming advantages of diffusing daylight. Artificial light incites stress, disrupts sleeping patterns, and harms our cortisol levels. Exposure to daylight is a vital component of human biological cycles; it has been shown that diffusing daylight can increase productivity and creativity by up to 15%.

The objectives of this work are to diffuse the largest amount of natural light possible for the best price, using long-lasting technology that is 100% recyclable.

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Honorable Mentions

CHP System with Internal Waste Heat Recovery

Nikolay Shkolnik, LiquidPiston, Inc., Bloomfield, CT

With distributed Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems, electricity is generated locally at homes or small businesses by burning natural gas in internal combustion engines, and exhaust heat is utilized for local heating. At a reduced cost, 70 million US homes could use a CHP system. This micro-CHP system runs on natural gas with ~45% generator efficiency. If universally adopted, such a solution could reduce CO2 emissions in the US by half a billion metric tons/year, reduce costs for electricity generation, reduce loads on the power grid, and take advantage of plentiful and clean natural gas resources. The technology can also be used as a range extender for electric vehicles, motorcycles, and unmanned aerial vehicles, and is scalable for large installations on ships, etc.

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Spindrift Energy Device

Brian Moffat, Spindrift Energy, Simi Valley, CA

This device captures energy from ocean waves and transforms it into electrical power that can then be transmitted to shore through a subsea power cable. The device has a buoy rigidly attached to a submerged tube. The depth of the tube places it below the waves, where the water remains still even when waves are passing overhead. As the entire device (buoy and tube) rises and falls with the waves, the tube is accelerated up and down with it. A turbine removes some of the energy from the water. The water that leaves the tube has a lower pressure than the water that entered, generating the energy driving the turbine. It will bring cheap, renewable electrical power to utilities and people around the world without harming marine animals.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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