The Lanturnal

The diurnal chandelier

I am fascinated by the overlap between the natural and the manmade — where cities surround parks and screens dot skylines. It seems like the more connected our world becomes the more we seek the simplicity of nature. How might we make the manmade feel more natural?

I created a lighting solution that syncs my room’s light with the cycle of the sun. For this project the rotation of the earth that creates the diurnal cycle represented the natural and incandescent light represented the manmade.

The Concept

Part of the Lanturnal shown above

The Lanturnal balances the light in a room with the motion and movement of the sun. An Arduino controls seven Edison bulb lights and turns them on and off as the sun sweeps across the sky compensating for how the light changes. It creates a connection between a room and the natural movement of the world outside.

At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted the lights to balance the sun’s light or if I wanted it to mimic and amplify the sun. I tried it both ways and liked how it felt more natural when it balanced the sun — at night I needed the lights and during the day I didn’t.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Dumbledore

How it works

My room is positioned facing perfectly north — this means the sun rises to my east and sets to my west. As the sun rises in the east and casts its first rays of light through the receding night sky the Lanturnal turns off the most eastern light to maintain a balance of light. This sequence of turning off lights from east to west continues until highnoon when the sun is at its relatively brightest point and thus all lights are off. Then as the sun wanes to the west and the light intensity begins diminishing in the east the most eastern light turns back on. The lights continue to turn on from east to west until nightfall when the earth orbits away from the sun and all lights stay on. Moreover, no two days are exactly alike because of longer summer days and shorter winter days — sunset and sunrise are synced to these changes.

Additionally the Lanturnal tells time by flashing the hour on the hour. If it is 4:00, four lights turn on. It also has a sunset and sunrise function that mimics a setting and rising sun. Sunset can be seen in the gif to the left.

The system is run on an Arduino. The code is here and the supplies and price list is here. It came out to about $155 dollars.

Why Edison bulbs? I’m drawn to objects that reveal their mechanism and Edison bulbs show off their twisting and glowing filament beautifully. Also because this was an electronic project reliant on lightbulbs I probably owe something to Thomas Edison (even though I’m using DC).

If it’s not broken add more features

I am moving to a new room in a month so I have the chance to set it up again and make improvements. Here are a couple things I’m thinking:

  1. Make the chandelier should look more robust rather than just wires and staples. (Something Joanna Gaines would put in a home). I am thinking I will add a conduit structure like this.
  2. If I could make only one change (and if I had a much larger budget) I would add a fourth variable, the color of the sun. I think color of light has huge impacts on mood, emotion, and health (Read: Here’s why the iPhone’s Night Shift mode is such a big deal). The Philips Hue lights are incredible in general and would be a perfect addition for controllable color to the Lanturnal.
  3. A false assumption I knowingly made is that the sun moves linearly, from directly east to directly overhead to directly west. However it has more of an arching ellipse motion in its trajectory (this is all relative because the Earth is the one orbiting the sun). To capture this movement lights should not be stacked linearly, instead they should be in three dimensions across the room.
  4. Another false assumption is that the intensity of the suns light increases linearly when in fact it increases more like a bell curve. (This is called solar insolation). This website calculates the solar insolation based on several variables. I would like to try to incorporate the solar insulation calculation into the code.
  5. Even if I account for the sun’s nonlinear movement and solar insolation I can’t account for weather and general haze. One way I can solve both of these problems is to go to the source (leave the astronomy to Neil Degrasse Tyson) and create a matrix of photoresistors to measure intensity throughout the day and angle and represent with the lights.
  6. An even more exciting prospect is connecting this project to the Internet of Things so I can connect it to a public camera and use an exposure of the camera image as a measure of intensity and feed that to the lights. I would also be able to run some whacky things with the system.
  7. I only focused on the largest star, why not add more?
Solar insulation at 40° longitude on July 5th

Overall, the most exciting part of the Lanturnal is that it connects people to the natural rhythm of the environment. Isn’t that what we all seek? Always becoming closer to the ebbs and flows of nature. I have admired design that invokes this sort of simple inherent emotion that brings us to our roots.

“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.” -John Steinbeck

Further reading: In the creation of this project I found another ‘Moritz’ working on a lighting design project. You can read it here:

Extra: You can listen to the song Sia wrote for the Lanturnal here and check out more pictures of the project here.

12/2/2016: The Lanturnal to the extreme popped up where I work. It’s beautiful.