A group of Egyptian scientists at Ain Shams University have come up with the idea for translucent panels that are specifically fitted to be able to divert natural sunlight into densely-crowded alleyways, and can get easily positioned over roof tops, on a lower budget.
The scientists argue that a variety of health problems in overcrowded spaces—as seen all across the Arab world, including Egypt—are a result of the lack of sun exposure.
The proposed panel improves illumination by 200% and 400% in autumn and winter as per research simulations – the corrugated “sine-wave-shaped” structure is to be ideally installed on building roofs, only one meter beyond the roof edge, facing the sun and directing its light downwards into the alleys by diverging it.
“We expect the device to provide illumination to perform everyday tasks, and improve the quality of light and health conditions in dark areas,” Amr Safwat, a professor of electronics and communications engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, told Science Daily.
Safwat is one of the authors of the study proposing the panel, published in Optics Express this month.
Previous structures used redirecting panels or guiding tubes that are optimized for certain solar altitude ranges, and which were suited for Middle Europe specifically; they also only direct the light upwards into the depth of a room and not into the depth of narrow streets, the researchers wrote. But the suggested panel, an improved model, can be tilted and operates over a wider range of solar altitude. “The fan-out angle exceeds 80% for certain solar altitudes and the transmitted power percentage varies from 40% to 90% as the solar altitude varies from 10°C degrees to 80°C,” the study reads.
The idea was to still use a sustainable source of energy to replace a conventional one—saving energy and reducing carbon emissions—while maintaining cost-effectiveness. The researchers say they have done this; the panels are made from polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), a type of thermoplastic material similar to synthetic glass available at low costs, and common press forming equipments are used in the panel’s manufacture.
Safwat and his team told the press they would eventually build a full-scale model 10 times bigger for validation and testing purposes, and they plan to market and commercialize their panels.
The Ain Shams university researchers were funded by the Science and Technology Development Fund (STDF).