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Illuminating Window-Less Houses With a Plastic Bottle

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the completely-beats-cow-dung dept.

Technology 240

New submitter DancesWithWolves writes "The BBC reports on Alfredo Moser, who came up with a way of illuminating his house during the day without electricity — using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach. In the last two years his idea has spread throughout the world. It is expected to be in one million homes by early next year.'"

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240 comments

Lighting on ships... (4, Interesting)

killfixx (148785) | about 8 months ago | (#44554663)

I've seen this type of lighting system before on old ships (USS Constitution, etc...).

Instead of a water they used glass blocks (or similar).

But, it's great to see a novel way of recycling trash into something beneficial! :)

Cheers!

Re:Lighting on ships... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554905)

Used to be common in brick walls too. Glass blocks about the size of 4 criss crossed bricks as they are in self supporting brick walls but without the offset. Used for bring sunshine inside but not translucent enough for prying eyes. Used to be fairly common in bank and law offices etc.

Re:Lighting on ships... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554951)

They're called deck prisms, as a prism will spread light around.

Re:Lighting on ships... (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 8 months ago | (#44555171)

They look alot like those geo things that people would fill with costume gems and say they had magical powers.

Re:Lighting on ships... (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 8 months ago | (#44555033)

If you're ever in SoHo in New York, look down. See all those marbles embedded in the sidewalk next to stores? Same thing.

They were doing that long before electricity was used to light the basements of buildings.

Dear god, how many times can you post this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554711)

Poor people, trash-to-treasure, soda bottle in roof, WE GET IT.

Re:Dear god, how many times can you post this? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554883)

You sound like an idle rich compassionless bitch.

Re:Dear god, how many times can you post this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555077)

Or just not one to gush every time the same world-changing brilliance is publicized.

Re:Dear god, how many times can you post this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555151)

No, just a typical Republican. Nothing new to offer except derision.

Re:Dear god, how many times can you post this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555245)

No, just a typical Democrat. Nothing new to offer but the same ole shit.

Re:Dear god, how many times can you post this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44556123)

Nothing new to offer except derision.

... said the Democrat, deriding Republicans as one-trick ponies.

Need to diffuse the light a bit... (2)

Greg01851 (720452) | about 8 months ago | (#44554727)

Great idea and implementation... at least where you have the type of roof where it can be used. One modification I would add would be to add something to the water in order to make it just a bit cloudy... this would diffuse the light a bit more. Of course, depending on the plastic, it may cloud up as it ages in any case, or start with cloudy plastic (i.e. plastic milk bottles).

Re:Need to diffuse the light a bit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555139)

One modification I would add would be to add something to the water in order to make it just a bit cloudy

You mean like the bleach mentioned in the summary?
[...] using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach.

Re:Need to diffuse the light a bit... (1)

sdoca (1225022) | about 8 months ago | (#44555417)

The bleach is to keep the water/bottle clear of algae, not to make it cloudy.

Re:Need to diffuse the light a bit... (1)

Iskender (1040286) | about 8 months ago | (#44555349)

OTOH any unevenness could be a benefit. The light will be somewhat diffuse in any case. If anyone needs intense light, any hotspots can be used for that.

Re:Need to diffuse the light a bit... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 8 months ago | (#44555735)

Most hotspots only provides intense light when they catch on fire, and only for a brief time.

Re:Need to diffuse the light a bit... (2)

wooferhound (546132) | about 8 months ago | (#44556015)

depending on the plastic, it may cloud up as it ages in any case, or start with cloudy plastic (i.e. plastic milk bottles).

I wonder how long one of these bottles will last out in the Sun and Weather? Aren't these plastic bottles made to biodegrade?

Simple and zero energy cost (4, Insightful)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about 8 months ago | (#44554741)

Elegant and no energy costs. It recycles something we all have handy. Easy to install also. Hard to argue with all those benefits!

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (3, Informative)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 8 months ago | (#44554859)

Wouldn't work here. I'd have an almighty mess after the first 20 degree night.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#44555089)

Assuming that's 20F, if you live in a house like the ones in the article (with a tin roof), then you have more serious problems than light.....

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555131)

20 degrees is room temperature

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555829)

-32 degree wind chill is cold no matter where you are. Unless you use Kelvin, in which case it is undefined.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555197)

Leave out the bleach and instead of water fill them with alcohol. Then you don't have to worry about a mess until it gets really cold.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555585)

The refractive index of alcohol is even about the same as water -- shouldn't change the light output/distribution.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555239)

Wouldn't work here. I'd have an almighty mess after the first 20 degree night.

Why? Yes the water might freeze but as long as there was an air gap and the glue held it should continue working.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555381)

Water expands when it freezes

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

Iskender (1040286) | about 8 months ago | (#44555409)

Water expands as it freezes, wrecking most any container.

I like this idea a lot, but it certainly works best in warm climates.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 8 months ago | (#44555665)

Most PET bottles can survive the ice expansion very well. It's the glass bottles that have most problems with it.

I know of a guy who takes water with him for long sport days by shoving the bottle into the freezer a day before. Ice slowly melts, keeping water cold throughout the hot day and bottle has no problems if it's a PET one.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555923)

Most PET bottles can survive the ice expansion very well.

Look at the article. Those bottles are in holes in tin roofs. When they expand the roof will cut them open. You also can't fill the bottle fully, because water expands by 10% and will damage even PET if filled to the top, as required for better light capturing in the article.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 8 months ago | (#44555911)

I keep a dozen bottles of water in my car, and don't bother to remove them in the fall. I get frozen ones all winter, and they never crack.
What does happen is that I find them partially collapsed in the spring, and use that as a puzzle for my engineering students.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 8 months ago | (#44555301)

Add a bit of salt, alcohol, or anti freeze.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freezing-point_depression [wikipedia.org]

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555477)

Keep trying: if I'm sticking this through a roof in Minnesota, it had better withstand -60F. Anti-freeze is good down to -35 - -40F.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 8 months ago | (#44555601)

isopropanol does not freeze unless you count "Temperatures found at the south pole, or on mars" as being a sensible design concern.

Freezing and flashpoints of isopropanol + water solutions [engineeringtoolbox.com]

Failing that, you could fill the bottle with clear acrylic or epoxy resin instead of either, and it will NEVER freeze. it's a tad expensive [ebay.com] but the resulting bottles wont explode when heated, wont spring leaks, freeze, etc.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#44556135)

Keep trying: if I'm sticking this through a roof in Minnesota, it had better withstand -60F. Anti-freeze is good down to -35 - -40F.

I've driven rental cars in Minnesota in the winter and there are plenty on the road. What do you think is put in a cars cooling system? Here's a hint; Antifreeze. The freezing point of Propylene glycol [wikipedia.org] mixed 60/40 with water is -60C (-76F). And it's relatively cheap. [bulkapothecary.com]

Isopropyl alcohol freezes at -89C (-128F) And is even cheaper.

Re:Simple and zero energy cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555689)

Wouldn't work here. I'd have an almighty mess after the first 20 degree night.

Nope, you're assuming the bottles would burst from the ice expanion. I fill one litre soda bottles with water, freeze then, and take them to work so I can have ice water. Now, if you used glass bottles, yes, you'd have a mess, but plastic soda bottles are surprisingly expandible.

Also great for ice chests full of beer for a picnic.

firefly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554745)

I prefer filling my bottles with fireflies and shaking them.

Not in my house. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554751)

This would be ideal for making sure the rats and squirrels in my attic have plenty of light to work with.

Weird... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554757)

Not only is this NOT new. Not by a longshot. It's not even news. Or stuff that matters..

What the fuck is this doing on slashdot?

Ohhh... right. dice bought the place... nevermind.

Re:Weird... (1)

malakai (136531) | about 8 months ago | (#44554789)

I remember reading about this a long time ago. Also, there was a short film about it on WIMP. Neat story, but definitely not new news.

Re:Weird... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 8 months ago | (#44555843)

I remember reading about this a long time ago.

Is that why the summary says: "In the last two years..."?

Re:Weird... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555107)

I read about this on SlashCOCK and let me tell you how much I made from home...

Re:Weird... (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 8 months ago | (#44555201)

This is as old as clear plastic bottles.

Re:Weird... (2)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#44555547)

Actually it's probably as old as clear glass bottles, there are mining shacks that used empty whiskey bottles for windows since they didn't have window glass (likely because they drank all the profits before winter came).

Re:Weird... (1)

Iskender (1040286) | about 8 months ago | (#44555323)

What the fuck is this doing on slashdot?

Ohhh... right. dice bought the place... nevermind.

Yeah, after Dice bought Slashdot there have been stories on nothing but smart hardware hacks such as this one. No Slashdot user has ever been known to like a hardware hack.

Old news, I'll give you that. But it's still a nice hack.

aliteroflight.org did it first (0)

seanvaandering (604658) | about 8 months ago | (#44554833)

Check it out: http://aliteroflight.org/ [aliteroflight.org]

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554957)

its the same guy, genius

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554987)

You should take your own advice and read the "About Us" page.

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555003)

Yes, they are spreading Alfred Moser's idea. Then again, this isn't a competition of who did it first.

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555063)

Reading comprehension fail. That site includes a note of thanks to Moser for the technology.

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555095)

No they didn't. In fact, if you read the info on the link you give they actually say "What do you get with sunshine and an old plastic bottle filled with water and chlorine? Thanks to Alfred Moser and a group of MIT students, you get a 55-watt solar bulb that refracts sunlight! " Liter of Light started in 2011? Moser came up with the idea in 2002.

So, maybe instead of trying to demonstrate your superior knowledge, how about reading before posting?

Re:aliteroflight.org did it first (4, Informative)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#44555193)

Moser actually came up with the idea back in 2002 in Brazil. The "last two years" mentioned in the summary is a reference to efforts to spread the idea around the world, of which the site you mentioned is one such example. That site started about two years ago, and if you check the About page, you'll see that they credit him as the originator of the idea and mention that they are working to spread the idea in the Philippines.

Glass bottles (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554885)

Those flimsy plastic water/coke bottles *will* leak eventually, and ruin whatever flooring/furniture/equipment happens to be underneath them.

Makes more sense to use glass bottles, IMO.

That said, we did the exact same thing when I was a kid (decades ago) to bring some light into an old and very cluttered toolshed, which had no source of power. Seemed pretty obvious to us at the time.

Of course, we considered it a poor-mans skylight, and didn't pretend to have some magic elegant new idea. I guess if something goes viral on facebook it means you invented it.

Re:Glass bottles (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#44555041)

Those flimsy plastic water/coke bottles *will* leak eventually, and ruin whatever flooring/furniture/equipment happens to be underneath them.

You mean, dirt? Did you look at the pictures of the places they are installing them?

Re:Glass bottles (3, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | about 8 months ago | (#44555065)

It's a rudimentary light pipe [wikipedia.org] really. Clever but not much use unless you're directly underneath a flimsy roof. That said, I'd like to see more real light tube installations in multistory buildings. Sunlight beats both LED and fluorescent in energy efficiency and light quality.

Re:Glass bottles (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 8 months ago | (#44555261)

If they leak they could ruin valuable antique furniture, hardwood floors, or even short their computers!

Secure, too... (4, Funny)

Urban Garlic (447282) | about 8 months ago | (#44554911)

They're completely unhackable! [slashdot.org] .

Soon they'll be mandatory in Enterprise deployments.

Re:Secure, too... (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#44555573)

They're only "unhackable" inasmuch as they aren't computerized or connected to any computer networks. But you can easily hack these to cause blackouts. Paint their exterior surfaces, for instance. Or unscrew the lid and let nature take its course over the next few weeks/months. Or punch a hole through it, which not only leaves them with reduced light, but also causes water damage to the interior of the room. And, if we're going down the tech route, surely we've already solved the problem of unscrambling refracted images by now, so all of these could very well act as windows for the people with the right software.

Re:Secure, too... (2)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | about 8 months ago | (#44555579)

Soon they'll be mandatory in Enterprise deployments.

  Would be nice, but, at least in my current office, they are being ignored. The space above the ceiling is illuminated by "deck prisms" in the roof, but all the ceiling panels are opaque, so our work space does not get any of that - except when a facilities tech opens a panel to get at something above the ceiling.

An even more elegant solution (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44554937)

If it's already sunny and you need light but have no electricity.. Get windows or go outside.

This "elegant" solution which involves drilling holes big enough in your ceiling to glue in a plastic bottle isn't so elegant at night.

NEVER leaks, he claims, having done it for the first time 2 years ago.

Re:An even more elegant solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555173)

Pay more attention. This is intended for use in tropical climates and places with so much poverty people are living in tin shacks. You think they have money for windows? You think they want to do everything outside in the hot sun?

Re:An even more elegant solution (2)

Iskender (1040286) | about 8 months ago | (#44555221)

If it's already sunny and you need light but have no electricity.. Get windows or go outside.

People using this have no money for glass, probably nothing for any other kind of windows, either. This will give a lot more than no light when it rains, too. People living in slums do not necessarily have the communal space you assume they have - if they can do things at home, chances are that's the place to do it.

Even if those things were to leak after three years, always, it would still be worth it for three years of work.

And what's with the night part? Do you think starlight will keep people from sleeping?

Prior Art (1)

tuo42 (3004801) | about 8 months ago | (#44555053)

Read about this and aliteroflight.org couple of months ago. A very similar idea has been used for years, sadly I cannot find an english version of this Wikipedia-article about the "Schusterkugel" (which translates to "shoemaker sphere") http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schusterkugel [wikipedia.org] regards tuo

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555153)

We've been using this in Brazil for decades as well.

Old old story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555105)

Alfredo Moser came up with this idea in 2002.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liter_of_Light
And was covered widely in 2011 and maybe before
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/dec/23/sunlight-bulbs-plastic-bottles-light

Vandalism-prone (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555121)

"I just heard someone on the roof. Why is it yellow in here?"

Really stupid idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555263)

All plastic containers like these today are made to deteriorate and rot in a landfill. They will also deteriorate and rot when exposed to sun light. Probably within a year, these things will be so rotten around the top that they will start breaking off and falling down into the house. Even the bird feeders I purchase today don't last more than a couple of years. They become so rotten that they break apart when you try to refill them.
Put one of these bottles out in the sun for a while and squeeze it from time to time. Eventually it will shatter from having become brittle..

So the solution . . . (4, Insightful)

dmatos (232892) | about 8 months ago | (#44555321)

to illuminating a house with no windows is . . . to add windows? Wow.

I mean, some kudos are deserved for finding an inexpensive (almost free) way to add windows, and using windows whose shape provides some refractory scattering of the incoming light. Still though, his solution to no windows was literally TO ADD WINDOWS.

Re:So the solution . . . (3, Informative)

tocsy (2489832) | about 8 months ago | (#44555609)

The important part is really that his idea doesn't use electricity and recycles widely available waste to provide the lighting. It also provides more light than a window the same size would, so I imagine it doesn't create as large of a structural problem.

I worked with a non-profit called Long Way Home [lwhome.org] a few years ago who I believe was doing this, along with using plastic bottles and used tires for to build a structurally sound, environmentally friendly school in Guatemala. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture of the plastic bottle lights in use but if you're interested, check out their website - they could use the exposure.

Re:So the solution . . . (2, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 8 months ago | (#44555767)

Brilliant observation. Now kindly find us a near-free way to add windows that do not jeopardise the structural integrity of standard slum shack, while also providing shelter from winds and rain.

The lamps work best with a black cap (1)

adibe (2480114) | about 8 months ago | (#44555331)

From the article: "The lamps work best with a black cap - a film case can also be used". - Could somebody plaese explain why?
How does the color of the cap impact the lighting proprieties?

Re:The lamps work best with a black cap (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 8 months ago | (#44555521)

My initial guess would be that a colored cap would tint or otherwise reflect whatever shade the cap was into the room. Black would reflect none. A white cap also probably would work reflecting nearly the full spectrum, but perhaps there is an issue with the light having different color temperature due to the reflection.

Re: The lamps work best with a black cap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44556115)

It simple terms: You a big dummy.

Not perfect... (3, Funny)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 8 months ago | (#44555411)

This is Slashdot, where perfect is the enemy of good.

Because there are edge use-cases where this won't work, it's completely unsuitable for ALL applications.

Or, to put it another way, because it won't work in some guy's shed in Anchorage, poor people in Africa, Asia and South America should continue to toil in the dark until a proper solution involving LEDs and / or light pipes is made available.

Now, instead let's discuss how 2014 will definitely be the year of Linux on the desktop.

This is a window. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555619)

A window allows light to shine in but holds wind out as the etymology of the word suggests. This is a window. It's just not made from glass, nor is conventional.

Solatube. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 8 months ago | (#44555655)

It's a poor man's Solatube [solatube.com] . However, in a hail-prevalent area like mine, I would go to the expense of a Solatube than plastic bottles.

Re:Solatube. (1)

new death barbie (240326) | about 8 months ago | (#44555857)

What kind of hail do you have that would damage the small end of a plastic bottle?
I'm trying to imagine how much force it would take to damage one.

Re:Solatube. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#44555945)

solartubes are horrible heat leaks. they are the worst thing in the world to install in any home that has insulation. What I am waiting for is 3" diameter acrylic rod that will do this for me and not have the ungodly heat losses that the solatube junk does. I had all 3 taken out of my home because of the losses they have.

Doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555743)

I just bored big holes to the living room of my neighbor. The bottles are all dark as is my left eye.

Let the EPA continue (0)

p51d007 (656414) | about 8 months ago | (#44555781)

And this will be coming to the USA also, because they will have to jack up utility rates, just to please the enviro-nuts in the USA.

Good idea for third world countries, BUT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44555803)

1. It's not a "light bulb". It's just a cheap version of a "solartube". Again, good for poor people, but not a freaking light bulb.

2. Flawed analysis to make themselves feel good. They talk about the CO2 footprint of their "bulb" then compare it to a 50W incandescent running for 14 hours a day. First, where are they getting 14 hours a day of SUNLIGHT everyday, all year. Second, why not compare to a CFL or LED bulb? Third, it only works during the day, when light is already available.

Don't get me wrong. It's clever. It's a good way for people who are very very poor to improve their life quality. But that's all it is. They spin the concept to make it sound like people in western countries should start sticking evian bottles through their roofs and poof, no more global warming.

Instead of building stuff out of trash, why doesn't someone fire up a kick starter project to design a manufacture a low cost, long lasting purpose built equivalent.

Re:Good idea for third world countries, BUT (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#44555915)

"First, where are they getting 14 hours a day of SUNLIGHT everyday,"

Nome, Alaska

Yearly Slashdot post on this... (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#44555891)

Honestly it seems that every year for the past 4 years slashdot herolds this.

Then HAD will do it in about 2 days.

This was news LAST YEAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44556017)

Slashdot is run by out of touch idiots.
First you start with aricles on stuff that Gizmag featured days before, now this.

Why don't those worthless savages just build NORMAL houses?

Old Idea, new twist, perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44556029)

I have seen this before, but not quite made with recycled bottles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deck_prism

They're called Deck Prisms, and were used on sailing ships, embedded in the decks to spread light below, but flat and therefore flush with the deck itself.

Nice to see a new and different use for old bottles.
If they were mounted bottom up, and flush, would they work as well?
What about glass bottles?
Could there be a direct comparison to the solid glass versions of the olden days?

Windowsless - you mean Linux run? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44556153)

N/t

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