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Nanoparticle Panels Will Bring Blue Skies Indoors

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Skylights are so 1986. Now it doesn't matter if the weather outside is dark and dreary, or even if it's midnight, for that matter: Thanks to this LED panel which replicates cloudless skies, you'll feel like you're bathed in warm sunshine.

What the panel is actually imitating is the Earth's atmosphere, a special cocktail of nitrogen, oxygen, and assorted other gases that makes our sky appear blue. Using a white LED behind a polymer screen that is coated in titanium dioxide nanoparticles, the window is able to reproduce Rayleigh scattering—the process that separates light particles into "blue" sky and "yellow" sun for our eyes.


The concept was developed by Paolo di Trapani and a team at the University of Insubria in Italy, and is now being manufactured under the name CoeLux. (These images, by the way, are from the CoeLux site, which claims they are all absolutely real and un-retouched photographs, not renderings.)


To make it even more authentic, CoeLux has different products which are designed to accurately imitate the sunlight at different latitudes. So there's 60, from the tropics, with vertical, high-contrast light. There's 45, which is a more medium, balanced Mediterranean hue. And finally 30, the Nordic version, for a warmer and more lateral glow.

Helping to treat people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder seems like the obvious use for these panels, but CoeLux also suggests some other interesting applications. Slap these up in buildings located in polluted cities so everyone inside sees blue skies instead of smog, for example. Or shower a depressing workspace with sunlight and see how productivity improves. Then there are the economic prospects: windowless restaurants might offer "outdoor seating," shady apartments would suddenly jump in value. Parks could be built pretty much anywhere. (Hey Lowline, are you listening?)


One of the most interesting things about the panels is that even though they can deliver endless sunny days, they can also be programmed to any type of weather variable. So not only can Portlanders experience artificially cloudless days in the depths of February, L.A. can get its gloomy fix come mid-August. [CoeLux, CORDIS, New Scientist]