Office LED system simulates clouds passing overhead

Office employees could soon be working under open skies thanks to a ceiling lighting system that imitates clouds passing overhead.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) have developed an LED-based tile system that could improve working conditions by simulating outdoor lighting conditions.

‘Each tile comprises an LED board with 288 light-emitting diodes,’ said Dr Matthias Bues, head of department at the IAO, which developed the system in partnership with German company LEiDs.

‘The board is mounted on the ceiling. A diffuser film in matt white is attached approximately 30cm beneath the LEDs and ensures that the individual points of light are not perceived as such.’

The researchers used a combination of red, blue, green and white LEDs in order to produce the full light spectrum using more than 16 million hues.

In order to replicate natural lighting conditions, the researchers studied how the light spectrum changes when clouds move across the sky, said Bues.

‘The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye. Otherwise, the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten alertness.’

The results of a preliminary study indicate that users find this dynamic lighting to be extremely pleasant. The study involved 10 volunteers who carried out their daily work over the course of four days under these lighting conditions with a lighting surface of 30 x 60cm.

After experiencing different light settings over three days, 80 per cent of participants chose rapidly changing dynamic lighting.

A prototype of this virtual sky has now been developed that contains a total of 34,560 LEDs spanning an area of 34m2. It currently costs approximately €1,000/m2, but the unit price is expected to fall as more are manufactured.