LED Skylight Authentically Recreates the Sun’s Rays

By Carl Engelking | February 17, 2015 12:12 pm

CoeLux’s artificial light will allow people to turn every day into a sunny day. (Credit: CoeLux)

Sunlight is a key factor architects take into account in their designs, but in most cases, they’re pretty much at the mercy of Mother Nature to provide it. However a new innovation may be set to change that.

An Italian company called CoeLux has developed an LED light that impeccably recreates the appearance of sunlight — so well that both human brains and cameras can’t tell the difference. Designers captured the color temperature and intensity of sunlight by recreating the same natural conditions that exist in Earth’s atmosphere, but on a nano scale.

Skylights for Any Room

When we step outside on a sunny day, the light that reaches us is actually filtered through the carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen molecules that make up the atmosphere. The excited molecules scatter the blue light — the smallest wavelength — more intensely than colors with larger wavelengths. This effect, known as Rayleigh scattering, is the reason the sky is blue.

Using nanoparticles, CoeLux designers essentially compressed six miles of Earth’s atmosphere into a few millimeters to artificially recreate Rayleigh scattering. And rather than a gas, CoeLux’s light source passes through a solid layer.

The light itself is an LED projector that emits white light in a spectrum that mimics the sun’s output. A “sophisticated optical system” (but with few details provided) creates the sensation of the distance between the sky and the sun.

What results is stunningly close to looking at the sun through a real skylight (CoeLux even makes a point to assert its website photos aren’t doctored in any way). Buyers can even choose from one of three different types of sunlight: tropical, Mediterranean and Nordic. Each setting is a different color temperature, and the sun shines through at a different angle.

A Bright Idea

Access to natural light has been shown to have myriad health benefits. If CoeLux’s design is convincing enough, it could be not just a beautiful addition to a room but a highly practical one too.

CoeLux envisions its lights appearing in hospitals, windowless offices and basements hundreds of feet below ground. The lights are also useful for photographers that are looking to shoot in-studio photos with natural light. The only downside for these lights, right now at least, is their price: roughly $61,000 plus $7,000 for installation.


A dress bathed in “sunlight.” (Credit: CoeLux)

As with any technological innovation, the price will surely come down as production is more streamlined. In future versions of the their skylight, CoeLux will allow you to toggle the position of the sun and adjust its color temperature, rather than just choosing a preset flavor of sunlight.

So, after the apocalypse, when all of humanity is forced to live in underground dwellings, take heart: There may still be sunlight to bask in.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Technology
  • http://www.wrighton.com Arthor Wright

    This inspires and encourages me to create.

  • kuppu samy

    The number of applications seems to be in-numerous.. Kudos to the Team ..

  • Come on think!

    Energy level of the photons is?

    • Thomas W. Yale

      A photon has an electric charge of <1×10−35 e. e stands for elementary charge, the electric charge carried by either a single proton or equivalently the negation or opposite electric charge carried by a single electron, which is approximately 1.602176565×10−19 coulombs. That would have each proton carry more than 1.602176565×10−54 coulombs. The energy level varies due to the photons' wavelength, which is determined by the formula E=hc/λ, where E is energy, h is Planck's constant, c is the speed of light, and λ is wavelength.

  • Jim LeSire

    And the purpose of this clever invention? Are we running out of sunlight or just out of places for people to receive sunlight directly? If so, wouldn’t it be a WHOLE LOT better to work on bringing that population down? Might improve the global warming and plastic-fouled sea somewhat, too.

    • notthatGreg

      I’ve lived in a number of urban apartments that didn’t get a ton of natural light (for various reasons). Not everyone can have windows that face the proper direction to let sunlight in.

      • Jim LeSire

        Yeah. I get it. I’m living in a two-story and would love to put some skylights downstairs.

      • Maia

        How many of us can pay $70,000 for installing a fake sky?
        There’s a real sky and real sun just outside the door… vitamin D and birds and fresh air…for free!

        • notthatGreg

          Hey, I totally agree that $70K for a fake skylight is out of reach for most people (me included). Then again, flat-screen TV’s were insanely expensive when they first came out too. Now just about everyone can afford one. If it works, the price will eventually come down.

          BTW, I was happy when the temperature outside increased to 0 degrees F. Fresh air and Vitamin D aren’t all they’re advertised during winters where I live.

          • Maia

            I do understand your points.Though I wouldn’t want a flatscreen if they were free. I just don’t feel good about corporations making millions coming up with fake light, air, food, etc. I use LED light when I need to be indoors, but “fake windows” , a “pretend sun”, feels like the wrong direction to me. We need MORE real natural world, not less. We are eliminating nature , then recreating false versions and selling those to each other, while, as someone pointed out, continuing to over-reproduce, destroy nature…a vicious circle, and it’s not exciting, it’s depressing.

          • Jim LeSire

            While I applaud the technology and its uses for people who have limited access to nature, I fear that it may simply encourage people to go on trying to exist without nature, eventually covering the planet with humans and a completely synthetic world of screens and speakers on all sides. You may want to read “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster: an extremely old sci-fi story (1920?) about people living in a world just like that, but where maintenance of the machinery begins to fail and people are dumped out into reality.

          • Maia

            Yes! It’s the trend away from actual experience in/of nature replaced by clever simulations that is the danger.. coaxing us live contentedly INSIDE a great machine, rather than inside the living world, with machines here and there. Some are eager for this, want the machine even inside their own bodies or at least worn on the body, while what I feel is we need to spend more time away from the “screens and speakers”, balancing the natural and the built worlds as much as possible.
            But If you haven’t tasted the amazing benefits (all dimensions) of natural-world direct experience, it may be nearly impossible to even know what you are missing! We may end up forgetting this kind of beneficial and healing expansion: slowly eating a just-picked tomato in summer, watching clouds or snow fall peacefully for an hour…having a long deep conversation with an old friend while walking…and hundreds more.

          • JG

            I understand the concern. As a ‘real’ example, we live in Seattle and my wife originally from Mexico ‘lives’ off the sun. One sunny day in a week (rare in December where there’s maybe 6 hours of light when it’s not raining) lifts her mood to normal. This would go a LONG way to supplementing winter and S.A.D.

    • biscuitdave

      Many people do indeed live and work in places with too little natural light. Some commit suicide over the lack of it.

    • Kamran Kamal

      If you want to bring the population down. Be my guest and lead by example.

  • TLongmire

    At an acceptable time in the future shadows will be unknown.

    • Maia

      Not sure if your comment is sarcastic or serious, but I’ve been reading about the ill effects of too much light
      everywhere, especially at all times of the night. The thing is, we need both real darkness AND real light. Why do we keep making fake things to replace real things? Why not try to make healthy things more available…oh, right. You can charge thousands for
      real sunlight, real air… real health.

      • TLongmire

        The way I see it is this invention is a huge step toward a better “environment” for people. The technology we have now to generate light is just a step beyond fire for the most part. Also I believe that one day it will be proven that LED light is unhealthy for not only humans but animals and plants as well. Perhaps the reason we seek invented things is because our environment is not ideal and we seek to better it. Perfecting reality will be possible one day and no doubt there will be no shadows to see once accomplished.

      • eurodep

        We’ve already figured out real darkness using closet door technology. It’s precursor was distinctly simpler application of way-in-the-back-of-the-cave technology. This is the same idea but with light.

    • http://larryetkin.efoliomn.com/ Larry Etkin

      Actually, the widespread application of this type of technology would probably provide everyone and everything with more shadows. Look at a stage lighted with a keylight (spotlight), backlight (the halo effect that pulls the person’s image up out of the background), and general illumination, and what you typically see is multiple shadows.

  • Russell Anderson

    This has stunning implications for Virtual Reality, eliminating windows altogether on airplanes and spacecraft, and instead replacing with sweeping panoramic views, as if you were suspended in the air or in space, and lighting panels, etc. This is one of many exciting “20-teens” new technologies! Extrapolate. Imagine what the technology of the 2020s will bring!

    • Max

      No, it really doesn’t. It’s a lighting fixture with a [huge parabolic mirror?] and admittedly very nifty blue scattering filter. Zero relevance to virtual reality or aircraft windows, lol.

    • Glenn Jones

      I like it. Weren’t they suggesting something similar for the interiors of the high speed rail tube proposed to eventually run between LA and SF?

  • James King

    NASA Mars mission…Indoor stadium…think outside the box…best technology I’ve heard in years

    • Guest

      IF You Are Interested In Getting extra paycheck On the side Averaging $50-$300 daily for Freelancing from Your house for several hrs daily then check this out

  • Ray_Van_Dune

    Two questions: Can it optionally move across the “sky” from morning to evening, changing the angle and color of the light? And how thick is it – can it be mounted on a ceiling within the depth that normally exists between floors?

    • Glenn Jones

      I suspect that what we are seeing is only the beginning. Dawn, noon, afternoon, evening, starlight, moonlight, clouds.

      • Dang

        … bird crap…

    • Herne Webber

      Well, if it *didn’t* move, it could hardly be called ‘convincing,’ could it? The article mentioned that the screen itself was only millimeters thick, so the whole thing can’t be very thick. Not that I know, but I am imagining it would be something like the thickness of plywood, while using some of the very same tech that is giving new, passive 3-D televisions their convincing look sans glasses.

    • eirikr1

      apparently no, at this time. Article basically said “we’re working on it”. My first thought when reading the Mediterranean, tropical, and nordic settings, was “will the settings be variable, or buy the model you want – then your stuck ith it.” ?

  • Sad

    Somehow I think the ISIS caliphate will declare this “un-Islamic” when they invade and take over Italy. But they can be soothed knowing that Obama will insist it has nothing to do with Islam while the knife starts to slice across the throats of the company execs.


    • http://larryetkin.efoliomn.com/ Larry Etkin

      I don’t understand why people feel a need to bring unrelated politics into a discussion about science. Even if this statement is intended as satire, it’s simply not appropriate here.

      • biscuitdave

        Some people have no vision beyond ingrained dogma.

    • Glenn Jones

      Huh? You lost me!

  • Captain Slog

    Brilliant, excuse the pun! Absolutely WONDERFUL!!

  • Vincent Wolf

    They need to have the sun move across the light as in real life. Would fool most people then !

  • Kamran Kamal

    This looks brilliant! Can’t wait for the price to come down.

  • Sam

    When we are forced to move underground to escape global warming this will come in very handy.

  • xuinkrbin

    Wasn’t there a “Lux Corporation” in an episode of “Doctor Who” where artificial sunlight was used? The first one with River Song?

  • YeahRight

    But does it cause sunburn and skin cancer? Will my carpet and my furniture bleach out? Will my sensitive plants wilt? If it doesn’t do any of these things, it’s not a good implementation of an artificial sun.

  • Dang

    Wait, did you see that guys eyebrows?!?

  • Martha J.

    I can see these lights used in very northern climates for people who are prone to seasonal affect disorder–depression from lack of sunlight. Does the artificial light fake out the human body enough to trigger Vitamin D production? That would be tremendous.

  • Gary Ronan

    Very enlightening!!

  • Max

    Whether the *bulb* is LED or otherwise is quite irrelevant to the design of this fixture. It isn’t a video screen. Video screens to not emit collimated rays.

  • KMN

    Until I see how well plants develop and mature underneath the lights, I’ll be doubtful of their usefulness.

  • Taylor Marks

    One of the health benefits of actual sunlight is the UV light creating vitamin D in your skin. Does this light accurately reproduce that as well, or does it only reproduce the visible range of light?

  • Tim Arnold

    $68K for a sunlight bulb. Yikes. What sort of energy usage? Hard to imagine these applications are green.

  • Lurker

    Give me a few of these and I could live in a basement


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