Umbrellas that light up with integrated LEDs are nothing new: from Instructable’s DIY illuminated umbrella to patio umbrellas available at Lowes, LED Umbrellas have been around the block. But here’s a brilliant idea we’ve never seen before: an illuminated umbrella that is powered by rain! Designer Sang-Kyun Park has taken the illuminated umbrella idea to the next level with Lightdrops, an umbrella made from polyvinylidene fluoride [PDVF], a conductive membrane that powers LEDs with energy from falling rain.
Appearing for all the world like a prop from the set of Bladerunner, the Lightdrops umbrella is constructed from a new type of fabric that harvests kinetic energy. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed just such a microfiber nanogenerator fabric earlier this year this year that when made into a garment like a shirt, “could harness power from its wearer simply walking around or even from a slight breeze…” Unfortunately, the zinc oxide coating in that fabric degrades when wet. Now designer Sang-Kyun Park is reported to be using a similar experimental material known as PDVF.
“As water pours over the surface, potential energy from raindrops slamming onto the conductive membrane called PDVF transforms into electrical energy powering embedded LEDs sending your umbrella ablaze with light,” Yanko Design reports. “The heavier the rain, the brighter the light to help you see your way.” If this mysterious PDVF material has overcome the water solubility problem, Lightdrops could just become the first widespread application of power-generating fabric in the world. So bring on the rain – we can’t wait!