Ali Kriscenski

GRAVIA: Gravity Based Kinetic Energy Lamp

by , 02/27/08

Greener Gadgets, Gravia, NYC, Core77, Kinetic Energy Lamp, Gravity Lamp, Gravia gravity lamp, Gravia Kinetic Lamp, kinetic energy, LED, lighting, design competition, Clay Moulton, conceptual design, gravia1.jpg

Gravia, a gravity based kinetic energy lamp concept, wowed our panel judges and the crowd at the Greener Gadgets Conference, earning a second place accolade in the design competition. Created by Clay Moulton, Gravia evokes the lines of a classic timepiece in a modern aesthetic and uses human powered kinetic energy to light an ambient LED floorlamp. It’s a fantastic concept – but one that has stirred up some debate across the blogosphere recently in regards to whether or not it is possible to build such a lamp right now with the technology that exists today.


Greener Gadgets, Gravia, NYC, Core77, Kinetic Energy Lamp, Gravity Lamp, Gravia gravity lamp, Gravia Kinetic Lamp, kinetic energy, LED, lighting, design competition, Clay Moulton, conceptual design

The driving idea of Gravia is that light is generated when the user raises weights from the bottom to the top of the lamp. As the mass slowly falls it spins a rotor. The energy created by the movement is harnessed by an internal mechanism to make electricity. Ten high-output LEDs light the four foot high acrylic column with a diffuse glow (600-800 lumens) for about 4 hours of ambient light.

Despite doubts over the engineering feasibility of the lamp, we were quite taken with the visionary, engaging concept behind the design. We like the idea of user initiated renewable energy, an interaction that Moulton calls “more complicated than flipping a switch but can be an acceptable, even enjoyable routine, like winding a beautiful clock or making good coffee.”

Moulton calls the Gravia a conceptual challenge for LED lighting, recognizing the limitations of current LEDs as well as the rapid pace of innovation. The future-forward design is in development phase, based on technology of the not-so-distant future. Drawing conceptually from time keeping pieces of the past, Moulton looks forward with Gravia’s durability estimating that the mechanisms could last 200 years.

Since the Greener Gadgets Competition, some criticism emerged from people who were concerned with the fact that Gravia isn’t actually manufacturable: “The criticism is that a great deal of weight –- tons — would be required and current LEDs are not sufficiently efficient.” Designer Clay Moulton has acknowledged this fact and says that the current design is probably not possible given current LED technology, but could be soon.”

We were surprised over all the commotion on the engineering feasibility of the lamp, since this was a conceptual design competition after all, and we never stated that designs had to be manufacturable or in production. In fact, the whole point of the design competition was to envision the “future of greener gadgets” – to create designs that are inspirational,and challenge us to imagine the future of greener electronics. By definition the future is often not ‘practical’ or manufacturable in the present. We believe that Gravia is an amazing concept with a lot of potential, despite the design’s lack of accurate engineering specifications.

What do you think?

Greener Gadgets Competition on Core77
+ Greener Gadgets Winners


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15 Comments

  1. trent86 February 25, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    How do you lift the weights back up to the top to restart the cycle?

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  3. dj_int June 16, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    While this technology matures for our civilized electified nations, imagine 3rd world environments where idleness is plentiful and physical exertion is common but, electricity is far out of reach. Is it still unrealistic idea to imagine 5 minutes of frisbee replaced by an African village inhabitant for an hour of hauling or weight lifting to generate light all evening…? use the same rocks over and over…skip the electrical grid and all it’s unpredictability and expense for a small village….is it still unrealistic?

  4. mina April 12, 2009 at 5:05 am

    : hello susan
    Iam mina mesena in Iran Iam interejted in your project lamp lit by gravity and Iread it I exactiy work in the same project and I need your help to complite it .I want frome you that send for me the tools that you used and the reason and how you used them for today
    mesena.mina@gmail.com
    mina_mesena@yahoo.com
    elnaz_sima27@yahoo.com

  5. Jonathan Edelson March 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    A design concept _should_ push and exceed the limits of what is currently producible.

    But when the concept doesn’t consider basic physical reality, then it is fundamentally flawed.

    If we assume 100% efficiency of all components, assume 683 lumen per watt for the LEDs ( the maximum possible luminous efficacy), a 100 kg storage mass, and a drop of 1 meter, then we get 700 lumen of light for 16 minutes. Using more realistically plausible technology for LEDs (120 lumen per watt) and power conversion (70% efficiency), and a much more reasonable 20kg storage mass, and you get 30 lumen for 10 minutes.

    600 lumen of white light for 4 hours using plausible future technology (by this I mean technology that meets but does not exceed the limits of known physics) would require a storage mass of about 4500 kg lifted 1 meter. This is a simple ‘back of the envelope’, and should be part of the conceptual design.

    Best Regards

  6. Sanctus March 9, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Well, this technology is used since 16th century AD, if not earlier. Just imagine a mechanical clock, that you wind up by pulling a weight up. And then you release the energy when it is needed. Old idea, new technology…

  7. Winner Of The Green Des... March 9, 2008 at 9:09 am

    [...] that followed had been raging on for a while and finally last week, the organisers, InHabitat.com responded .On their website, they pledged continued support to Moulton; “We were surprised over all the [...]

  8. Harry Allen March 6, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I covered this topic on my blog, *Media Assassin*, at harryallen.info, and quoted aramaic’s letter.

    This is a critical issue. I think the organization needs to critically look at this issue.

    HA

  9. Lighting My House by Ot... March 6, 2008 at 10:43 am

    [...] cool “gravity-based kinetic energy lamp,” Gravia, above, by designer Clay Moulton, placed second at the Greener Gadgets Conference (GGC)’s design competition, held here in New York City, on [...]

  10. aramaic February 28, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    “want to buy 1000 of them if it can work cost effectively!!”

    …groan…

    While I applaud your enthusiasm, it’s misplaced here. Think about what you’re proposing, and the size & weight of the device components.

    How is someone supposed to put an eight ton machine in their living room? Why would anyone want to?

    If you really feel like playing around with this, Dremel makes a small generator that fits on the end of their rotary tools, in order to power a couple small LEDs. It would be trivial to use that device in your own assembly, with your own mechanism driving the power shaft, rather than the rotary tool.

    …it’s a relatively low-cost way to get started, but even better it’s a low-cost way to find out why I’m right, and why devices like the Gravia won’t work for any kind of useful light output.

  11. Brad Bowen February 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Here’s an idea….readers & inventors…from an “amateur” inventor…

    Comment above…….”……criticism is that a great deal of weight –- tons — would be required….”

    Maybe use a chain winch or hoist that they use in industrial applications whereby almost anyone of any stature can lift a great deal of weight with a pull of a chain and then let it slowly descend to generate electricity! Yes it would cost more….yes it would probably be bigger in size but, the concept would be a great one to experiment with…..especially if it was built to be a taller design. I want to buy 1000 of them if it can work cost effectively!!

    Any thoughts? Send me a message also please to mylinkforever@yahoo.com

    Thanks

  12. Dan Ferrara February 28, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Gravia, is not new; there is a light that is powered by moving a weight up and down in side a tube. Does not work very well. Has been around for years.

  13. Pink Robe February 27, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I have to agree with aramaic – 600-800 lumen for 4 hours requires a LOT of energy. A 10 kg mass [the most I would want to lift in this scenario] in a lamp similar to the one proposed would make about 98J on its trip from the top of the light to the bottom, assuming close to 100% efficiency. 98J is about 23 calories, or similar to the amount of energy I expend in 5 minutes of throwing a frisbee around.

    If we have LEDs that efficient, I won’t waste my time lifting a rock to power the bloody things. I’d go play some frisbee instead…

  14. Mark Bartosik February 27, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    An alternative way to look at it, is that it required a break through in LED technology that would make the LED 1000% efficient. That means that the LED would have to create energy out of nothing, or perhaps have a cold fusion reactor inside. In which case I suggest that the award goes to the inventor of the cold fusion reactor. Of course if we have a cold fusion reactor, this lamp is just a waste of space.

  15. aramaic February 27, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Surprised by the “controversy” over the engineering? Why would anyone be surprised? The problems with this are not small — they’re huge. Even if you had one hundred percent efficient light sources (not possible due to those unfortunate laws of thermodynamics) this device wouldn’t work as advertised.

    Tell you what: I have a concept for a piece of paper that knows everything that will ever be known, and can therefore answer any question you write on it.

    …now give me my award. It’s a great concept, isn’t it? Inspirational, isn’t it? Who cares that the laws of the universe make it impossible — give me my award!

    Really, I demand my reward and attendant publicity. Money would be nice too. My paper idea is just as feasible as this light.

    Environmentalist-designers should spend less time with Maya, and more time working on solutions that are not forbidden by the fundamental laws of the universe. This kind of crap is why hucksters like Steorn get airtime.

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