Aug 06

Winter Gives You Time to Think About Solar Lighting!

We are a bunch of electrical engineers, and we live in and around Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with a latitude of 53.5472° N. Anyone living at that latitude should expect long, cold winters as a rule of thumb. Sure, we have nice, temperate/warm summers, one of which is right around the corner. But, like our kindred spirits in Scandanavia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, we’ve got a lot of time to think about things in the winter, because it’s just not that smart to willingly go outside in -40° C.

Many people might think we’re a bunch of oil-wrangling cowboys out here, with not much regard for Mother Nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. As professional engineers, we are taught to think of every challenge as an opportunity to solve a problem. As electrical engineers, we have a prescribed interest in alternative energy – anyone who can read will tell you that there is a finite end to the way we currently harness energy from our natural resources.

So, in the vast, somewhat-frozen expanse that is our homeland, we were left with this challenge – how do we make solar energy work, north of 49°? We get some beautifully long days in the summer months, but for much of the year, it’s dark when we leave for work, and dark when we come home.

So, harsh conditions, limited light to draw from, solar what?? Sounds improbable. That’s the kind of skepticism that we engineers love, and usually fuels us to look harder and deeper for an answer. In our case, we were able to leverage a highly stable solid-state battery – a Lithium-Polymer masterpiece, capable of holding a lot of juice, but not subject to the same physical fluctuations as a conventional battery cell, because it’s a solid piece, not a series of fluid-filled chambers. Additionally, we had to have a light source that was bright enough to illuminate for long hours in the darkness, and store as much power as possible during the hours of limited daylight. In comes our LED. Now, LEDs are not hard to come by. The difference for DX3 really lies in the way you bring power from a source to an LED, and the logic and circuitry required to make that light robust and sustainable, without using too much of that power.

So, with all that time to think during the winter, we have been able to solve the question of sub-arctic solar lighting. Naturally, our technology has many other applications, and several different industries that it applies well to, but the biggest challenge was, of course, Old Man Winter…