Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2022

Human innovation has driven our civilizations forward, but oftentimes at the detriment of other species. For instance, conventional lights and street lamps allow people to work and navigate at night, but they can confuse nocturnal life and attract pollinators, killing them in the process.

Tobias Trübenbacher, a design student from Berlin, has developed a lamp post that reduces the negative impact of light pollution by only lighting up when it’s needed. It also produces its own renewable energy through an integrated wind turbine, which cuts down on emissions associated with street lighting.

The lamp, called Papilio, is motion-activated and has a matte black body, designed to reflect as little light as possible. It can be mounted to walls or set up as a freestanding lantern. To maximize wind power, it should be placed three to six meters above ground level.

If placed on a diagonal, the rotor can make use of airflow created in urban environments, such as wind tunnels created by tall buildings and the airstreams of passing vehicles. The wind’s kinetic energy is converted into mechanical power, which is then turned into electricity by an integrated 300-watt generator. The energy is then stored in a rechargeable battery which will switch on with the help of an infrared motion sensor that indicates when someone is passing by.

Trübenbacher sought out the assistance of scientists and researchers to ensure that the light emitted by the Papilio is less appealing to insects. Conventional, blue-toned streetlights attract insects and make them obvious to predators while also causing overheating and dehydration.

Light pollution isn’t just bad for biodiversity, it has a negative impact on human health as well. “[It causes] sleep disorders, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” according to Trübenbacher.

Trübenbacher has already tested the lights in various locations in Berlin, and reports that “under normal wind conditions, the generator generated an average of up to 12 volts of electricity at any given time.”

He hopes that when applied at scale, the light could illuminate cities without producing carbon emissions. He notes that in Germany alone, street lighting emits around 2.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

The integration of Papilio streetlamps could help eliminate those emissions and could operate without “expensive underground electricity infrastructure.” Or, alternatively, the lights could be connected to local power grids, and the surplus energy can be diverted and used by the city in other ways.

Source Image: Tobias Trübenbacher

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