Is it possible that a material designed for decorative purposes could also serve a more practical use? Terrazzo Lumina is a concrete-based material which is capable of emitting light from its surface. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are cast into the concrete and a light-conducting material (such as optical fibers) is used to bring the light to the surface. It appears that Terrazzo Lumina is currently used only for decorative purposes, but why couldn’t it be used for something practical, too?
Perhaps Terrazzo Lumina could be used to provide all of the interior lighting for a building. There would be a number of advantages to doing this. First, the lighting would be very uniform. Since all wall (and even floor and/or ceiling) surfaces could be made to emit light, an interior space could be lighted very evenly, but an infinite number of variations would also be possible. By controlling the intensity of the LED light sources in various parts of a building, “busy” or “more important” areas could be lit more brightly while “unused” or “less important” areas could be lit more dimly. Because the spatial distribution of the lighting would be extremely flexible, the lighting “theme” could be tailored to the current activities occurring within the building (or any given room). Even the mood could be altered from very dramatic to quite utilitarian.
Using Terrazzo Lumina for general interior lighting might even find an application in developing countries. Since the LEDs have phenomenal lifetimes and are safely embedded in the material, they would provide an almost maintenance-free light source. If necessary, such a system could be powered by electricity generated by solar cells and stored in batteries for use when needed.
Just because something was developed (or at least initially used) for decorative purposes doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always be looking for new ways to use it. In fact, no matter what the currently accepted usage of any material or technique is, we should always be thinking of new applications for it. Finding a new application for an existing material is an excellent way to get more of the proverbial bang for the (development) buck.
Photo credit: http://www.interiordesign.net/photo/327/327975-Sensitile_Systems_Terrazzo_Lumina.jpg