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.

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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