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January 5th, 2012

LED ceiling virtually recreates clouds drifting across the sky

Published on January 5th, 2012 | Edited by: Eileen De Guire

A dynamic luminous LED ceiling gives office workers a feeling of working under an open sky. Credit: Fraunhofer IAO.

If rainy days and Mondays get you down, a remedy is now available thanks to researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany—at least for the rainy days.

Working with industrial partner, LEIDs GmbH, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO designed an LED ceiling lighting system that simulates the dynamic effect of passing clouds.

The ceiling array is made of 50 cm x 50 cm tiles, each of which holds 288 light emitting diodes. The full spectrum of light in over 16 million hues is generated by a combination of red, blue, green and white LEDs. A diffuser film suspended 30 cm below the tiles blends the individual points of light to create homogeneous, virtual outdoor sky.

To achieve an effect that accurately simulates natural outdoor light, the researchers studied the variations in illumination as clouds passed by. In the press release, Fraunhofer scientist Dr. Matthias Bues says, “The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye.” That would be distracting. However, Bues says that a certain amount of fluctuation in the “cloudiness” promotes concentration and improves alertness.

In a study conducted with a prototype ceiling in an office setting, 10 participants rated three lighting conditions: static light, gentle fluctuation and rapid fluctuation. Over 80 percent of the office workers prefered the rapid fluctuation, i.e., a partly cloudy day with a gentle breeze … and no bugs. The press release reports, “users find this dynamic lighting to be extremely pleasant.”

A 34 square meter prototype with over 34,000 LEDs can produce more than 3,000 lux of intensity, but 500 to 1,000 is enough for a comfortable level of illumination. The virtual sky is priced at about 1,000 euro ($1,300) per square meter.

That’s a bit pricey, but in cloud-rich regions like Seattle, it might be a worthwhile investment to boost worker productivity.

So, rainy days begone. Anyone got some ideas for creating a virtual Friday?

 


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