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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2008 / 02 

Lamp lit by gravity wins Greener Gadget award

February 19, 2008

A Virginia Tech student has created a floor lamp powered by gravity.

Author's update, Feb. 21, 2008: While many people want to know when the lamp will be available, many others point out that it won't actually work.

The criticism is that a great deal of weight -- tons -- would be required and current LEDs are not sufficiently efficient.

Designer Clay Moulton acknowledges that the current state of the art isn't sufficient to actually build the lamp. The story should have said: “based on future developments in LED technology."

Moulton said: “I was told it was not possible given current LED's, but given the rapid pace of innovation in low powered lighting, it would be a conceptual challenge. The mechanism itself is the novelty. I hope everyone understands that this criticism and even failure is all part of a process, and that my job as a designer is to take this feedback and work on."

The award was for a conceptual design project based on future technology, and the lamp was one of many futuristic designs recognized at the Greener Gadgets Conference.

Clay Moulton of Springfield, Va., who received his master of science degree in architecture (concentration in industrial design) from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies in 2007, created the lamp when he was an industrial design graduate student. The light-emitting diode (LED) lamp, named Gravia, has just won second place in the Greener Gadgets Design Competition as part of the Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City.

Concept illustrations of Gravia depict an acrylic column a little over four feet high. The entire column glows when activated. The electricity is generated by the slow fall of a mass that spins a rotor. The resulting energy powers 10 high-output LEDs that fire into the acrylic lens, creating a diffuse light. The operation is silent and the housing is elegant and cord free -- completely independent of electrical infrastructure.

The light output will be 600-800 lumens - roughly equal to a 40-watt incandescent bulb over a period of four hours.

To "turn on" the lamp, the user moves weights from the bottom to the top of the lamp. An hour glass-like mechanism is turned over and the weights are placed in the mass sled near the top of the lamp. The sled begins its gentle glide back down and, within a few seconds, the LEDs come on and light the lamp, Moulton said. "It's more complicated than flipping a switch but can be an acceptable, even enjoyable routine, like winding a beautiful clock or making good coffee," he said.

Moulton estimates that Gravia's mechanisms will last more than 200 years, if used eight hours a day, 365 days a year. "The LEDs, which are generally considered long-life devices, become short-life components in comparison to the drive mechanisms," he said.

The acrylic lens will be altered by time in an attractive fashion, Moulton said. "The LEDs produce a slightly unnatural blue-ish light. As the acrylic ages, it becomes slightly yellowed and crazed through exposure to ultraviolet light," he said. "The yellowing and crazing will tend to mitigate the unnatural blue hue of the LED light. Thus, Gravia will produce a more natural color of light with age."

He predicted that the acrylic will begin to yellow within 10 to 15 years when Gravia is used in a home's interior room.

A patent is pending on the Gravia. To learn more, contact Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. at 540-443-9374.

Learn more about the lamp and the designer's philosophy.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

 

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